Engineering Ups and Downs

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In this activity, learners explore the engineering and principles behind working elevators. Teams explore the history of elevators, elevator design, and develop their own working elevator using wheels, pulleys, string, cardboard and other materials. Learners design their toy car garage elevator first on paper, then execute their plan, and evaluate the strategies employed.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
2 to 4 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan


Materials List (per group of students)

  • Student Resource Sheets
  • Student Worksheets
  • Glue
  • String
  • Paperclips
  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Cardboard
  • Cardboard tubes (such as from paper towel or toilet paper rolls)
  • Markers
  • Pulleys or thread spools (3)
  • Thin rope
  • String or fishing line
  • Cardboard box to serve as elevator room (shoe box, large milk carton)
  • Small toy cars


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Manufacturing Engineering
      • Mechanical Engineering
      • Transportation Engineering
    • Technology
      • Transportation
      • Manufacturing
  • Physical Sciences
    • Energy
      • Work and Machines
    • Motion and Forces
      • Machines
      • Gravity
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Impacts of Technology
      • Technology and History
    • The Design Process
      • Research and Development
      • Invention and Innovation
      • Problem Solving
      • Troubleshooting and Maintenance

Informal Categories

  • Toys
  • 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,