Everyday Engineering: Engineering in Reverse

Design, Engage, Everyday Engineering


This week, in our Everyday Engineering class, we reverse engineered windup toys in order to better understand how they work.  Students were put into teams of two and given a unique windup toy that they were to observe and predict how the internal mechanics of the toy work.  They sketched their prediction before beginning to take apart the windup toy.  After disassembling the toy, they sketched and labeled all the parts and how they worked together; finally they reassembled the toy to make it work again.

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This activity was a fantastic learning experience and both sections of the class came up with a list of interesting things they learned from the activity.  Here are some of the kids’ insights after completing the Engineering in Reverse activity.

  1. Things on the inside are a lot simpler than you think.
  2. It’s possible to learn a lot about how things work by taking things apart.
  3. Sometimes there are a lot of parts being held together by just one little part.
  4. It was interesting how all of the arms and legs were controlled by just one wind-up handle.  There were lots of gears to connect all the parts.
  5. It was possible to put it back together backwards – the toy went backwards when it was wound.
  6. Some toys had shells that had to be on in order to work.  One truck had a cover that held on a weight that was part of the operation of the toy.  All of the parts of the toy were important.

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