Romans are fascinating people. Whenever people say, “We are so much smarter than those stupid ancient people,” I point to the Romans. Have you seen what the Romans achieved? Look at the aqueducts. They are amazing! Roman aqueducts brought water from miles away to Roman cities. They figured out the math and the angle of incline they needed to get the water from point A to point B and how to lose as little water as possible and keep it relatively untainted. That is amazing engineering. With that, I thought it would make a fun history lesson, with a bit of a science lesson thrown in to challenge my kids to design an aqueduct.
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Possible aqueduct resources to use
Okay, here’s what you need to know. This particular time around when I challenged the kids to design an aqueduct, I was writing my own history curriculum, but these are resources I used previously.
Here are my sources when I wrote the history lessons
Oh no, I just went to my Ancient Rome video list and I discovered I didn’t have a good video for aqueducts, I must now rectify that mistake.
Mistake fixed, now to share what I found. Full disclosure, I have not fully watched all of them at the time of writing this. I’ll go back and watch them later, and update if they really should not be shared here.
Okay, that gets you started on just what an aqueduct is before you challenge your kids to design an aqueduct.
Supplies to design an aqueduct
I spent several weeks saving all of the toilet paper rolls, bits and pieces of cardboard, and whatever else random recycling we had. Then to supplement it I pulled out aluminum foil, packing tape, and duct tape.
I think there could be quite a lot of other items you could use, but that was what we used in our house.
Goal for our design an aqueduct plan
Before they set to designing the aqueduct, I wanted them to have credentials by which I would check the materials:
- The water had to flow over a 5 foot distance.
- The aqueduct had to start over two feet high and go down to about 1 foot high or maybe a little bit lower.
- The majority of the water had to make it to the end of the aqueduct, preferably so I don’t have to clean a giant mess in my kitchen.
Design an aqueduct
Okay, I need to confess something. I don’t have pictures of most of the action.
I gave them the rules and they scavenged through the materials.
They found a large number of materials and started cutting and taping things together.
Their first attempt, which did not end well, was completely free-standing. It kept falling over.
So they went back to the drawing board, and tried again. This time they anchored it to the refrigerator. This meant we could not use the refrigerator…
This is where it kept going ever so slightly wrong.
And I really wish I had pictures to share with you, but I was right there in the middle of it trying to help keep the aqueduct up.
First, we discovered even with it anchored, it was very hard to keep the aqueduct upright. It kept sliding to the left or right, and leaning to one side or the other.
Then we discovered, it didn’t matter what type of tape we used, we were having a hard time keeping it on the various cardboard we were trying, partially because the water was soaking into the cardboard.
That was the other problem, we ran into. The kids cut the aluminum foil in smaller pieces than we should have. So, it wasn’t holding the water in and the water was leaking out.
So, in between trying to keep it from falling over, we were also trying to keep it from disintegrating as it got wet.
In the end, our aqueduct did not look like this. You know what it looked like?
If you guessed a soggy mess of cardboard and aluminum foil you are correct.
We scrapped that attempt and tried again.
We made a longer stretch of aluminum foil.
We tried to create a wider base.
Again, we were left with a soggy cardboard and aluminum foil mess. My floor was covered in more and more water, which was having the nice bonus of cleaning it a bit as I mopped up the water.
Our third try had pretty much the same results as the first two, and at that point I was completely out of supplies to design an aqueduct.
We learned, unlike the Romans, we cannot design an aqueduct to transport water over long distances. We clearly had the wrong supplies to try this out.
Next time, we will beat you ancient technology and create our own version.
See some successful engineering and plans from the past
While we did not successfully design an aqueduct, we’ve had a few past attempts that were successful and were a lot of fun.
- How to make an irrigation system
- How to use a catapult
- How to survive a flood and redesign a city
- How to make a Roman road
- How to make a bridge that will hold 100 pennies