Are you a primary school teacher who is passionate about inspiring your students through STEM? Then Engineering is Elementary is for you. Engineering is Elementary is an exciting and immersive professional development program developed by the Museum of Science, Boston. We’re delivering the curriculum linked Engineering is Elementary program free to teachers across Australia. This program is supported by Principal Partner Defence Australia.

This inquiry-based professional learning program will help you:

  • build confidence to teach and assess STEM subjects in K-6 classrooms
  • develop your STEM teaching strategies to meet the learning needs of your students
  • engage students in critical thinking and authentic problem solving with the free STEM resource kit and unit of work
  • connect to a national network of teachers for ongoing collaboration and support.

Any questions? Email teachers@questacon.edu.au

Video transcript

[Archisha] My name is Archisha and I’m doing the “Taking the Plunge” challenge. Don’t you love how learning about science enables us to solve interesting and unusual problems? I’m building my own submersible to retrieve an object. But to do it, I’m gonna need some help. Welcome to Questacon. [Music]

[Ali – Questacon educator] Hi Archisha, how are you going with the “Taking the Plunge” challenge?

[Archisha] well one of the objects I need to recover is inside a cylinder. So I’m wondering what I could build to retrieve it.

[Ali] That’s a fantastic question! ASK is the first step of the Engineering Design Process. You’ve identified a problem. Now you can use the rest of the steps of the process to help you design a solution. IMAGINE, PLAN, CREATE, IMPROVE. So what solutions can you imagine?

[Archisha] Well I could use a vacuum or a grabbing claw or even a hook. I wonder what they do in the real world to retrieve items underwater.

[Ali] I know someone who can show you.

[Harry Hubbert – Navy Engineer] Hi Archisha, I’m Harry.

[Archisha] Hi

[Harry] I’m a Navy Engineer and you want to learn about retrieving things underwater.

[Archisha] Yes please

[Harry – Navy Engineer] That’s great. As a Navy Engineer, I use the Engineering Design Process every day to solve problems just like yours. Let’s go to the Navy innovation centre.

[Harry – Navy Engineer] The Navy have a range of remotely operated vehicles, just like this one.

[Archisha] That’s so cool.

[Harry – Navy Engineer] Yeah, so they are underwater robots that we control from the surface. The Navy use them for things like inspecting our Navy ship hulls or propellers or if a rope gets tangled we can use a sub to untangle it or recover an object from the sea floor.

[Archisha] but how does it grab things underwater?

[Harry] This hydraulic arm which is made up of three parts. We have the control system here and it’s connected through a long cable that provides power and communications to an underwater robot. The Hydraulic arm itself, has small actuators inside here that allow it to move and rotate. On the end we have a grabber, we use this to grab and pick up object and other things.

[Archisha] how does the arm itself move?

[Harry – Navy Engineer] a hydraulic system enables us to control the movement of the arm by applying pressure to different chambers of oil inside it. By pushing or pulling oil to different parts of the hydraulic arm force is passed on to make it bend and straighten. So, would you like to have a try?

[Archisha] Yes. It’s moving just like my arm

[Harry – Navy Engineer] that’s right. So your arm, uses your muscles, electrical signals from your brain to control it.  Where this hydraulic arm uses oil, metal, electronics to do the same thing. So now that you’ve got the hang of it would you like to go recover an object?

[Archisha] yes


[Harry – Navy Engineer] So Archisha, now you’ve seen how Navy engineers use remote operated vehicles to recover things from the sea floor. Good luck with the rest of the challenge.

[Archisha] Yes, thank you so much, I had a great day.


[Archisha] okay so I’m back at Questacon and its time to create my submarine


[Archisha] using the parts I have, I’ve made my submarine in a size and shape that fits in the cylinder.

[Ali] that’s great a great solution Archisha, I can see it works well. Using the Engineering Design Process the final step is IMPROVE. Can you think of anything you’d like to change?

[Archisha] I’d love to improve my designs so that they can be used in more ways. I’d love to use hydraulics to create a claw that opens and closes. Just like the one the Navy uses. What ideas do you have?