You will need
- Clean, empty plastic bottles (two litres)
- Torch or phone
- A4 paper
- Pens or pencils
- Modelling balloons
- A balloon pump
- Tin cans
- A length of string, at least three or four metres long
- A sharp, pointed object, like a corkscrew
Before you begin
- The person leading the activity should set up invention stations. Put the three tables in a line at the end of the meeting space. Put the water, bottles, balloons and pump on one table, the 'Morse code' sheet and the torches on a second table and the cans, string and sharp pointed object on a third table.
- On the first table, the person leading the activity should inflate the balloons with the pump. Pinch the air from the ends of the balloons and knot them. With pen and paper, make a sign that says ‘The pneumatic tyre’ and attach it to the table.
- On the second table, make a sign that says ‘Light signalling’ and attach it to the table.
- On the third table, pierce the base of each tin can with the sharp pointed object. Run the string through the holes in the cans, knotting each end so that it stays in place. Make a sign that says ‘The telephone’ and attach it to the table.
- The person leading the activity should explain to the group that they’re going to be finding out how some important inventions were created.
- Some people should fill the bottles part of the way with water.
- When the bottles have some weight, some other people should wrap the inflated balloons around each bottle, so that they look like wheels.
- Tie the balloons on with string so that the wheels are fixed.
- The group can then race the bottles across the floor of the meeting space.
- Everyone should talk about why the bottles move better with air-filled wheels.
Send light signals
- Everyone should look at a copy of the ‘Invention stations international Morse code’ sheet. Everyone should try and write the words on the second page of the sheet in Morse code, using the first page of the sheet to help work out the letters
- Two people should share one torch. If there are three torches, they should be shared between six people. The people with the torches should take the Morse code sheets and the torches and go and sit on the opposite side of the room.
- The person leading the activity should turn off or dim the lights, if possible.
- Each two-person group with a torch should use the ‘Invention stations international Morse code’ sheet to work out how to signal their names. They can use the torch to read the sheet and a pen or pencil to mark the letters they need to signal. Then they should switch the torch on and off, pointing toward the side of the room where the rest of the group are, using flashes of light to try and show one of their names in Morse code.
- The person leading the activity should turn the lights back on if they were off and bring everyone together again. See if the people who stayed by the table could work out the name from the flashes of light. Ask the group why this code might have been useful.
Talk on the telephone
- Two people should take the tin cans. One should move across the meeting space until the string between the cans is pulled tight. Then both people should sit down.
- The person leading the activity should whisper some questions in the ear of the person with the can who’s closest.
- That person should hold the tin can to their mouth and ask the question. The other person with the tin can should hold their can to their ear and try to hear what is said. They can then answer and the person who asked the question should listen to see if they can hear what’s said.
- The person leading the activity should let some other members of the group try if they’d like to. See if the telephone worked, and find out if anyone knows anything about real telephones and how they came to be invented. Ask the group why people needed telephones and why they’re now so widely used.
The group has looked at three inventions that changed the way we live our lives. Which invention does the group think was the most important? Which is their favourite? What could be made better about these inventions – has anyone already invented something else that makes it even better?
These activities have shown the group what it must have been like to test out early versions of things that’d go on to become important inventions. Does anyone think they could ever invent anything like this themselves? What everyday problems would they try to solve with their invention?
Provide some light, so the environment isn’t completely dark. Everyone must be able to see others and move around the area safely.
- Sharp objects
Teach young people how to use sharp objects safely. Supervise them appropriately throughout. Store all sharp objects securely, out of the reach of young people.
- Water games and activities
Be careful when doing activities with, in, or near water. Check surfaces and reduce the risk of slipping where possible. Make sure you have appropriate supervision for this activity.
- Rubbish and recycling
All items should be clean and suitable for this activity.