The Tin Snail - Forces / Engineering

The Tin Snail by Cameron McAllister provides a context for learning about forces, in particular friction and air resistance. This story is set in France in 1938 and follows Angelo who needs to invent a new car in order to save his dad’s job.  The car  needs to carry:a farmer, his wife, two chickens, a flagon of wine and a dozen eggs across a bumpy field without breaking a single egg. All of this without the enemy discovering his top-secret design. Angelo struggles to make his ideas work, showing how resilience, resourcefulness and creativity can result in amazing things. This book provides a great backdrop for discussing the process that inventors and engineers work through when they are making something new. It is also a great setting for exploring:

  • the effects of air resistance  and friction
  •  mechanisms, including levers, pulleys and gears

Key scientific vocabulary: Earth, gravity,air resistance,friction,moving surface, mechanisms, springs, levers,pulleys,gears,energy transfer, aerodynamic

Other fiction books with a similar theme:

Leonardo’s Dream _ Hans de Beer

Links and Resources

Forces and Motion

A film by Teacher's TV demonstrating how to teach about forces to children in key stage two. Midway through the film there is a great idea for demonstrating the idea of friction using jelly and chopsticks.

In Chapter Five, Angelo and his dad find an old lawnmower which they decide to take out for a ride. However on their journey they notice that the brake cables are broken and things soon get out of control. You could challenge the children to design a surface to slow the lawnmower down.

publication year
2000 - 2009

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Popular Mechanics: Becoming a Designer of Machines

In this project the children are challenged to design and make either a counter to count visitors to a shop and/or create mechanical toys to tell stories. They begin by exploring  a range of toys and mechanical devices identifying features like gears, cams and axles and thinking about how they transmit and transform movement. In the following lesson children explore gears and cams in everyday objects, looking at how they work and gathering the knowledge they need to create their own mechanical objects.

publication year
2010 to date

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High Flyers: Building a Glider with Everyday Materials

Aimed at upper primary, this resource contains a series of lessons which explore  the process of being a glider engineer - designing making and testing, finally sharing their design and communicating about the process. In the Tin Snail, the car designers share their work at a car show in Paris, where journalists and the public give their feedback. Teachers may choose to have an event where children could communicate and share their designs with a wider audience.

 

 

 

publication year
2010 to date

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Down to Earth: Staying on the Ground

An open ended investigation into air resistance through paper helicopters, good for developing working scientifically skills. 

Children could investigate:

  • speed the helicopter falls by changing the amount of air resistance of the helicopter
  • size of the helicopter
  • weight of helicopter
  • size of the rota blades
publication year
2010 to date

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Selenia and the Victorian Adventure

This comic is about forces of air resistance and gravity. Written to promote scientific enquiry, it includes an air resistance investigation to find which is the best shape and size for a parachute. In this episode, Selenia builds a hot air balloon to travel to London. She needs to build a parachute for her friend Daiki and needs help finding the best design.

Children could think about the process that Angelo and his father work through when designing and testing their new car. Drawing, building prototypes, testing, refining, testing, rebuilding......

publication year
2010 to date

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Beat the Flood STEM challenge

Beat the flood by Practical Action encourages children to explore how good architectural design can help simple housing structures to survive in flood conditions.  Within this resource there are focused practical activities where children investigate which 3D structure is the strongest?

Angelo and his friends build a new garage workshop. Which structure would be the most stable or weather resistant?

publication year
2010 to date

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Balloon Buggies

From the Centre for Science Education, and with support from Shell Education services, these materials help children to investigate forces and motion by making balloon buggies.

In chapter nine, Angelo outlines the requirements for his new car design. It must be able to drive over a ploughed field, carrying two chickens and a tray of eggs. The children could make and design their own balloon buggies to carry an egg. Using construction toys such as Mechano, K'nex, Lego or junk modelling materials the children should make and modify their design, working in the same way that Angelo and his father did.

publication year
2010 to date

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More About Forces and Movement

Angelo and his friends are driving over a very old bridge. The car is loaded up. The bridge starts to break and they all end up thrown from the vehicle. The children could investigate the work of Brunel and then they could be challenged to build the bridge to either carry the most weight or span the largest distance.

This Nuffield Resource book has some simple ideas for exploring forces including bridges on page 12.

publication year
1990 - 1999

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