A Simple Escapement Mechanism

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In this activity, learners build a simple mechanism that regulates the "escape" of energy released by a falling weight by portioning it into discrete amounts. Escapements are found in mechanical clocks, such as those driven by a pendulum or a spring. Learners will build the wrapping form of escapement said to be used in a fifteenth-century German clock.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 18

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • pipette box
  • 3 bamboo skewers (3/16 in diameter)
  • 6 plastic drinking straws
  • 10 jumbo paper clips
  • 1 regular paper clip
  • 2 ft of light string (not heavy twine)
  • translucent tape
  • scissors
  • ruler
  • wire cutter (for cutting paper clip)
  • saw to cut bamboo skewers (e.g. band saw, sabre saw, coping saw, etc.)


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Mechanical Engineering
    • Technology
  • Physical Sciences
    • Energy
      • Energy and Power
      • Work and Machines
    • Motion and Forces
      • Machines
      • Gravity
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Technology and History


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Rathjen, Don


  • All rights reserved, Exploratorium, 2007