This Archimedes’ screw is such a neat science lesson about simple machines!  We use screws all the time to hold things together, but screws are also used to raise and lower things.  In fact, a screw is actually an inclined plane (ramp) wrapped around a cylinder or a cone.

Simple Machines Science Lesson: Build an Archimedes' Screw

Archimedes was a Greek philosopher who lived from c. 287 – c. 212 BC.  Some of the discoveries that he is known for are his work with levers, calculating an accurate estimate of pi, and using a screw to lift water.  The Archimedes’ screw is still used today to pump liquids and even some solids.

Kids will enjoy this simple demonstration of how Archimedes’ screw is able to lift water.  We found this experiment in our science book Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics (Amazon affiliate link), and I thought that the use of clear plastic tubing was genius!

For this demonstration, you will need:

  • A bowl
  • A glass
  • A piece of PVC pipe – we used 1.5 inch diameter pipe, and our piece is about 14 inches long
  • Clear plastic tubing, 1/4 inch inside diameter – you can find this at Lowe’s or Home Depot
  • Clear packing tape
  • Water
  • Food coloring

The book suggested using a tin can, and that would definitely be a great option of you don’t have PVC pipe.  We really enjoyed having a longer screw using the section of pipe, however.

Simple Machines Science Lesson: Build an Archimedes' Screw

Wrap the clear tubing around the pipe and secure it with clear packing tape.  Duct tape would probably hold better (and for longer), but then you wouldn’t be able to see the water in the tube!

Simple Machines Science Lesson: Build an Archimedes' Screw

Put some water in your bowl and add a few drops of food coloring to make the water easier to see.

Then simply place your screw with the bottom end resting in the water.  Put a glass under the top of the screw.  Then start turning the pipe!  The water will travel up the screw and drip out into the glass!

Simple Machines Science Lesson: Build an Archimedes' Screw

Pretty neat!

Simple Machines Science Lesson: Build an Archimedes' Screw

Note that the water stays in the underside of the tubing.  As you turn the screw, it scoops up some water, then air, then water, etc. (This provides a side demonstration on the fact that air takes up space!)  We tried raising the screw more upright so that the bottom of the tubing would always be under water, but that didn’t work.

Simple Machines Science Lesson: Demonstrate Archimedes' Screw

Need mores science ideas?

Simple Machines Science Lesson: Build an Archimedes' Screw

5 Comments

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  1. Krisskross Mar 13, 2017

    If the water is deeper and the pipe be held at the same angle would it still have the air gaps?

    Reply
    1. Sarah Mar 14, 2017

      If the water is deep enough to completely cover the bottom of the screw, then it would not have the air gaps. But I'm also not sure if it would the same way! Try it and see!

      Reply
      1. Rupert Gadd Jun 12, 2018

        A full tube will create a suction and drain all the fluid out.

        Reply
      2. Amy May 21, 2017

        Love this! My son is a budding engineer, always trying to find out how things work. He would love this especially because we saw a huge Archimedes screw in action last summer at a local water park. Do you think hot gluing the tubing on the pipe would work?

        Reply
        1. haagfd Jun 14, 2017

          i dunno

          Reply
          1. haagfd Jun 14, 2017

            dwdewr4

            Reply
        2. AOvarma Jul 27, 2017

          Bonjour
          heureux de vous rejoindre.
          Je ne sais pas si je poste au bon endroit, je n'ai pas l'habitude des forums.
          Je suis plutôt habitué à simplement lire sans participer.
          Mais certains sujets m'ont tellement motivé et apporté que j'ai décidé de m'inscrire.

          Reply
          1. Will Dec 25, 2018

            Practicing stress relieving activities like meditation and exercise, and being grateful needs to bbe an everyday goal.
            Those with respiratory conditions like asthma and allergies will see it even more
            complicated aand uncomfortable in these situations.

            You probablky would like your regular doctor tto recommend
            an allergy specialist.

            Reply
            1. Amy Jan 30, 2019

              Do you happen to remember how much plastic tubing you used?

              Reply

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