Engineer a Dam

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In this activity, learners explore the function and engineering of dams and how dams have many uses and solve many problems in the world. Learners work in teams to engineer their own dam structure in a water trough that has the ability to release water in a controlled manner, as might be used in irrigation. Learners present their plans, execute and test their dams, and reflect on the experience.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
$10 - $20 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Experiment/Lab Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Student Resource Sheets
  • Student Worksheets
  • Water
  • Measuring cup
  • Water trough or long plastic planter
  • Gravel or sand (for "river" base)
  • Cardboard
  • PVC pipes
  • Tape
  • Foil
  • Plastic wrap
  • Cups
  • Straws
  • Paper clips
  • Wooden dowels
  • Cotton balls
  • Plastic sheets
  • Clothespins
  • Wire
  • String
  • Screen
  • Fabric
  • Springs


  • Earth and Space Science
    • Earth Structure
      • Rocks and Minerals
      • Oceans and Water
  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Agricultural Engineering
      • Civil Engineering
      • Mechanical Engineering
      • Metallurgy and Materials Engineering
      • Transportation Engineering
    • Technology
      • Transportation
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
  • The Nature of Science
    • Science and Society
      • Risks and Benefits
      • Ethics
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Impacts of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Research and Development
      • Invention and Innovation
      • Problem Solving
      • Troubleshooting and Maintenance

Informal Categories

  • Nature and Environment
  • Transportation


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, IEEE,