During Science Week, Year 5 investigated the work of an Ancient Greek inventor and engineer, Archimedes. He is best known for inventing a way to move water uphill using a mechanical screw, but Archimedes also put his impressive mind to finding practical solutions to many other problems.


The Ancient Greek world had a hot climate and because of its geography many cities were found next to the sea. Archimedes was getting into his bath tub one day when he noticed that the water had started to overflow. He famously shouted out ‘Eureka!’ He had realised that when a solid object is put into liquid, it causes the liquid to be displaced. This helped him to be able to design new ways of building safer and more reliable ships, an important part of the reason why Ancient Greece became such a powerful civilisation.


We set up an investigation to demonstrate Archimedes understanding of buoyancy. After constructing our own model boats, we loaded them with marbles. Some of the boats could hold quite heavy loads before they sank. We extended our investigation to find out whether the temperature of the water made a difference to the buoyancy of the boats. To do this we needed to set up a controlled variable experiment, so that only the temperature of the water changed at each stage of the experiment.


The ability to water food crops is vital to being able to feed people. In Ancient Greece, Archimedes made it easier by building a machine that used a rotating screw to lift water uphill from rivers onto fields where crops were growing. The science behind this machine is quite tricky so we decided to build our own models so that we could observe them in action.


Archimedes was respected for using science in his practical solutions to everyday problems and so when his city was being attacked by sea, he was asked to help to find a way to defend against the enemy. His idea was to use a large catapult to throw rocks long distances out to sea to sink the enemy ships. To see how this plan worked we designed and built our own catapults in the Great Ladbrooke Fling Off. We planned our designs and after testing out what was working and what was not we were finally able to build working models.


The final step was to test out our catapults in a simulation of the attack on Archimedes city. Dylan and Praveen became our champion engineers after they discovered that more elastic at the base of the catapult caused it to have more potential energy. Their machine, called ‘The Dominator’ managed to catapult stones more than three metres away.


Year 5 enjoyed learning about Archimedes, a scientist whose ideas have influenced scientists for over two millennia, and investigating his work through practical experiments.