Students work with specified materials to create aqueduct components that can transport two liters of water across a short distance in their classroom. The design challenge is to create an aqueduct that can supply Aqueductis, a (hypothetical) Roman city, with clean water for private homes, public baths and fountains as well as crop irrigation.
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- Common Core State Standards for Mathematics: Math
- c. Find a percent of a quantity as a rate per 100 (e.g., 30% of a quantity means 30/100 times the quantity); solve problems involving finding the whole, given a part and the percent. (Grade 6)  ...show
- International Technology and Engineering Educators Association: Technology
- F. New products and systems can be developed to solve problems or to help do things that could not be done without the help of technology. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- G. The development of technology is a human activity and is the result of individual and collective needs and the ability to be creative. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- F. Knowledge gained from other fields of study has a direct effect on the development of technological products and systems. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- R. Requirements are the parameters placed on the development of a product or system. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- D. The use of technology affects humans in various ways, including their safety, comfort, choices, and attitudes about technology's development and use. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- G. Economic, political, and cultural issues are influenced by the development and use of technology. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- D. Throughout history, new technologies have resulted from the demands, values, and interests of individuals, businesses, industries, and societies. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- F. Social and cultural priorities and values are reflected in technological devices. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- G. Meeting societal expectations is the driving force behind the acceptance and use of products and systems. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- C. Many inventions and innovations have evolved using slow and methodical processes of tests and refinements. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- D. The specialization of function has been at the heart of many technological improvements. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- G. Requirements for design are made up of criteria and constraints. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- H. Modeling, testing, evaluating, and modifying are used to transform ideas into practical solutions. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- H. Apply a design process to solve problems in and beyond the laboratory-classroom. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- I. Specify criteria and constraints for the design. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- J. Make two-dimensional and three-dimensional representations of the designed solution. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- K. Test and evaluate the design in relation to pre-established requirements, such as criteria and constraints, and refine as needed. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- F. The selection of designs for structures is based on factors such as building laws and codes, style, convenience, cost, climate, and function. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- I. Buildings generally contain a variety of subsystems. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- G. Transportation vehicles are made up of subsystems, such as structural propulsion, suspension, guidance, control, and support, that must function together for a system to work effectively. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- I. Processes, such as receiving, holding, storing, loading, moving, unloading, delivering, evaluating, marketing, managing, communicating, and using conventions are necessary for the entire transportation system to operate efficiently. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- Massachusetts: Science
- 6.1 Identify and compare examples of transportation systems and devices that operate on or in each of the following: land, air, water, and space. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- 6.3 Identify and describe three subsystems of a transportation vehicle or device, i.e., structural, propulsion, guidance, suspension, control, and support. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- 5.1 Describe and explain parts of a structure, e.g., foundation, flooring, decking, wall, roofing systems. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- Next Generation Science Standards: Science
- Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- History of the Roman Empire.
- Building techniques that were used by the Romans.
- Creative design methods.
- thin plastic drop cloth
- empty 2-liter soda bottle and cap
- duct tape
- clear vinyl tubing (3/8" outside diameter)
- 2-3 tables
- blocks or books
- 2 liters water
- electric drill or screwdriver
|A pipeline specifically built to transport water.|
|A surveying instrument that was used by engineers when building aqueductd. It is used to determine the profile of the land in order to determine where the water needs to flow to reach its destination.|
- By introducing various ideas and themes from the social studies curriculum on Ancient Rome and incorporatingi this modeling project, this could become a favorite interdisciplinary activity for middle school students.
- Gather materials and make copies of the worksheets.
- Drill 3/8" holes in the tops of 2-liter soda bottle caps for the tubing to fit into.
- Set up the "course" that the water will be transported through. For example, from a table to a bucket on the floor 5 feet away, with an obstacle of books between.
With the Students
- Set the mood by reading to students the Introduction/Motivation section.
- Assign the "Roman Aqueduct Manual" as homework reading.
- Log on to the NOVA website, and give each student time to play "Construct a Roman Aqueduct" in the classroom: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/lostempires/roman/aqueduct.html
- Describe the challenge to the students and hand out materials.
- Students must deliver the water from the bottle at point A to the "city" at point C. Neither the sheet plastic or the tubing is self-supporting, therefore the aqueduct must go through the point B, the bottom of the "valley" (the floor).
- The water flow should go through the plastic tubing from the soda bottle to the bucket on the floor, with lost water represented by unsupported tubing. Water is precious, so any that escapes the system represents a costly mistake in engineering, construction and/or operation.
- After completion of the challenge, modify the course to make it a little harder. For example, add a line of blocks across the table perpendicular to the flow as a hurdle or low hill that the water must be delivered over.
- Different elements can be built along an aqueduct such as a covered trench, tunnel, pressurized pipe, wall or arcade.
- Explain to the students that certain criteria must be met. These include:
- A limit on the amount of water lost (dripped). A good place to start would be a cup of water lost maximum (~15% of a full 2-L bottle). This value may be varied, but the idea is to give the students a limit of performance.
- A limit on the amount of material available. Keep the materials given to each group consistent. Material (monetary) constraints are very important in engineering.
- A time limit for construction. Give students roughly 45 minutes to complete their first iteration.
- A time limit on the flow of water. If the water does not flow quickly enough, the citizens may not have a sufficient supply. Set this at 30 seconds initially for the full 2 liters, and vary accordingly.
- Further criteria may include: Budget (assigning play money to the groups for material), maximum height drop/gain (though this is likely established by the "terrain"), and ability to move water with sediment (sand) in it.
- How did the Roman Empire manage to supply its urban citizens with water?
- What techniques can be used if mountains and valleys exist between the water source and the city?
- How is today's water system similar or different from that of the Romans?
- What are some major constraints for this project? Do you think these existed for the Romans as well?
NGaffney, Dennis. "Secrets of Lost Empires." February 2000. NOVA (a five-part NOVA series). http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/lostempires/roman/aqueduct.html
Simmon, Barbara Brooks and Thomas R. Wellnitz. © 2000. Prentice Hall Science Explorer: Earth's Water
by Pearson Education, Inc., publishing as Prentice Hall (Portions of the activity from this source; used by permission)
© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2004 Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Center for Engineering Educational Outreach, Tufts University
Last modified: February 10, 2016