Amazing Air

A large blue and white flat maze that is contained within a blass and steel display case, sits in front of a brown and white vertical information panel.
A large blue and white flat maze that is contained within a blass and steel display case, sits in front of a brown and white vertical information panel.

Pneumatic pistons use air to lift and lower heavy things.

How it works

A team of people use pneumatic pistons and problem solving skills to roll a ball through the tilting maze.

Things to try or ask around the exhibit

  • Can you move the ball around the maze?
  • Why does the maze tilt when you press the buttons?

Background

Each corner of the maze has a pneumatic piston underneath. Pneumatic pistons move up and down with changing air pressure, so as you press a button, an air compressor releases air and the maze tabletop tilts upwards. When air is released from a piston, the tabletop tiltw downwards.

Finding the science in your world

Pneumatic (air-based) and hydraulic (oil or water-based) pistons are used in many ways. When a mechanic lifts a car on a hoist, they are putting oil and air under pressure in a hydraulic lift. When you drive a car, it uses hydraulics and pneumatics to work the brakes and steering. The next time you see a garbage truck lifting a wheelie bin, or a giant excavator moving piles of dirt, see if you can spot their moving pistons. Pneumatic machines like jackhammer drills often make a ‘hissing’ sound, because air leaks out under pressure.