A17: Archimedean Screws

Brief Description:

Students build Archimedean screws to transport water.

Grades: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Time: 60 mins

Keywords: simple machines, screws, archimedes

Lesson Objectives

  • Students will learn about Archimedean screws
  • Students will use the engineering design process to design, build, and test their own Archimedean screws


  • Plastic tubing
  • Wooden dowels or PVC pipes
  • Tape
  • Water (or a sink in the classroom)
  • Plastic tubs
  • Legos


  1. Introduce Archimedean screws. An Archimedean screw is a tool invented by Archimedes for raising water by means of a spiral within a tube. The design is comprised of a screw (a helical surface surrounding a central cylindrical shaft) inside a hollow pipe
    1. Archimedes is a philosopher, inventor, physicist, engineer, and astronomer from Ancient Greece.

  • An Archimedean screw works by scooping water at the base. With each rotation of the screw, the water is pushed up the pipe until it finally flows out of the top.
  • Hand out materials for students to build their own screws and allows them to build and test.
    1. Test using plastic water tubs filled with water and flowing into the sink.
    2. If students finish early, have them design a handle/crank for their screw using Lego or other materials found in the classroom.

  • Discuss: What worked well? What did not work well? What materials would make this challenge easier? How does the efficiency of the screw change depending on the number of coils of plastic tubing on the dowel?