Busy Beavers, Building with Biscuits and Blowing Bubbles

Here comes six brand-new Engineering Awesome Activities for our ingenious AQUILAnauts! We’ve got brilliant beavers, we’re building bumbling biscuit buildings, we’ve got blowing bubbles…and a bit of a thing for the letter ‘b’, it seems. Let’s get Busy! 

Construct a Beavers’ Dam!

You may have heard that beavers are engineers – you’re picturing them wearing hard hats, aren’t you? It’s fine if you are. Did you know that beavers can grow up to 120 cm in length (1.2 m), making them the second largest rodent after the capybara (they can reach 135 cm)! Here’s something super odd – they can close their lips BEHIND their teeth – allowing them to continue munching underwater – now that’s something for Britain’s Got Talent! Or is that Beavers Got Talent? Ed. Very amusing. Did you know beavers use their 50-cm-long tail not only for swimming, but also to warn their beaver brethren of impending danger? They slap their tails on the water to alert their pals or scare off predators – so clever! Have you made the frankly adorable beaver automaton from inside our Ingenious Engineering issue? If so, then why not go one step further and construct your very own dam!*

*NB – maybe don’t put your beaver automaton in the dam – it might get rather soggy!

Build a Brilliant Bubble Blower

We know our AQUILAnauts enjoyed making the magic bubbles from our Showstoppers issue back in November, and we thought perhaps more bubble-based fun may be in order. Enter: The Brilliant Bubble Blower activity. Using some (OK, a lot) of recycling and some Ingenious Engineering, this activity involves making an actual bubble blowing machine – no batteries required. Have a pop at it, here!

Create a Leaning Tower of Biscuits

Ah, an activity that involves eating – ideal! Ed. Steady on, we’ll get to that. First, we’re thinking about the Leaning Tower of Pisa. OK, now Im lost, ed. For this activity, our AQUILAnauts should go online or open an encyclopaedia and familiarise themselves with the wonderful Leaning Tower of Pisa. If you’re lucky enough to have visited it in real life, then what did you like about it? The leaning-ness of it? Yes! The leaning-ness of it! How is it doing that and not falling over? It hurts my brain! Never fear, we’re not concerned with that – we’re concerned with building a biscuit tower and seeing how tall we can make it and how far we can lean it until it falls over into a big crumby mess! And THEN what happens to the big crumby mess? Sigh. You can eat it. 

© Vyacheslav Argenberg / http://www.vascoplanet.com/, CC BY 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Draw Your Ultimate Personal Railway Carriage

If you have the budget, there are some truly extravagant train rides to be had. The MaharajasExpress, which travels across North-West and Central India, features the presidential suite comprising of a living room and TWO bedrooms and bathrooms as well as a 24-hour personal valet – remember this is a train we’re talking about! The suite is furnished lavishly and kitted out with state-of-the-art technology and climate control – it truly is a hotel on a train track! If you could design your own train carriage, however, what would you want it to be like? Stocked with every issue of AQUILA ever made, obvs, ed. Let your imagination run wild, here. 

Simon Pielow, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Design a Heath Robinson Machine

This month we have a blog on William Heath Robinson, and an interesting spin-off activity for our readers. Heath was such a fascinating character that in the UK in 1912, the phrase ‘Heath Robinson contraption’ entered the dictionary! This referred to the invention of a machine that was made in an overly complicated and often silly way, but largely had no practical use, or would produce a simple result making the whole over-the-top nature of the machine pointless. It was his often entirely ludicrous ideas that brought people joy – his cartoons depicting his inventions gave people something to laugh at. During World War II, Heath raised morale by countering German propaganda with his satirical cartoons. Our activity this month challenges inventive AQUILAnauts to design a machine to assist with any common problem they can think of – with some Heath Robinson humour, please!

William Heath Robinson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Write a Choo Choo Haiku

A haiku is a traditional Japanese poem that was once called hokku. As you’ll discover with our haiku activity, this type of poem doesn’t rhyme, and consists of three lines; the first has five syllables, the second seven, and the third line has five. With so few words to play with, does this make the task of writing a haiku easier or harder? Then, there’s the added complication of including the main literary device of the haiku: the poem must evoke imagery of something natural such as a tree or a season. We can’t wait to see how our AQUILAnauts get on writing their own poetry, here. 

We hope this run-down of Ingenious Engineering extension tasks has inspired our clever readers! If you don’t already subscribe to AQUILA, perhaps now’s the time to get involved! Check out our subscription options, here!

Words: Jennifer Newton-Brown