Renaissance Unit StudyWeek 5: We created engineering notebook pages like Leonardo da Vinci, assembled models of his machines, made and improved the designs of paper airplanes.
Leonardo da Vinci was an artist, but also a great engineer. His curiosity led him to study human organs, war machines, flight, music, and the way people lived. Throughout his life he designed a high-rise city, paddle boat, machine rollers for making thin sheets of tin, a planetarium, scuba gear, tank, harpsichord-viola, and mechanical drum. Improving the design of existing devices such as the cannon and catapult also captured Leonardo's attention.
Our Leonardo da Vinci studies began with his artist background and human body fascination which can be found here.
Of the numerous machines Leonardo da Vinci designed and improved, only a small handful were ever built. Just like engineers of today, Leonardo had difficulty securing funding and finishing a design to his personal satisfaction.
The above models, Bombard Cannon Leonardo da Vinci Assemble Set, and
Catapult - Leonardo Da Vinci Kit # EDU-61009 were purchased kits. In addition to the catapult and cannon, several other models are available.
Leonardo's Notebook - Writing
Throughout his lifetime Leonardo kept engineering notebooks. They contained his ideas and mechanical designs. Since parchment was expensive, every possible inch of space was filled. Unlike a notebook of today bound with a spiral ring, his notebooks were a collection of loose pages held together with scarf-like pieces of fabric.
The horror of war frightened Leonardo and he worried about his lethal weapon designs falling into the wrong hands. His style of mirror writing, coupled with intentional mistakes built into his designs, reduced the risk of his weapons being built by enemies. His notebooks were some of the first examples of exploded view drawings commonly used in engineering practices and instruction for kids building toys today. Exploded views show parts of an assembly aligned with other parts, but not in place. Drawing them exploded makes it easier to see how the parts fit together.
The kids were asked to create a Leonardo Notebook Page with the following instructions.
1. Create engineering sketches for a custom designed machine. Be sure to include materials, and any special instructions.
2. Write down anything you are wondering about.
3. Write down your weekly budget, grocery list and to-do list.
4. Write down anything else you are thinking about.
Try to write backwards like Leonardo if you want. Remember parchment was expensive, so Leonardo used all available space.
*I gave them small pieces of paper to make it even more of a challenge.
Here are the results:
I found them difficult to read, but could after they were read to me.
Your Height Diving Board
Leonardo and Flight - Paper Airplane Activities
Leonardo da Vinci was obsessed with flight. Observing birds and wondering how they flew was a favorite pastime. Purchasing caged birds and setting them free gave Leonardo more opportunity for up-close observation. His notebook pages contained designs for airplanes, gliders and parachutes.
We began our flight study by folding Nakamura Lock airplanes and learning how to adjust them.
Next we talked about different types of paper airplanes (gliders, stunts, and darts) and factors which effect flight. Wing shape and weight were discussed most. Planes with narrow wings tend to fly fast and straight. They are known as darts. Wider wings result in longer, slower flights of gliders. Stunt planes do flips. Adding weight to the nose of a plane increases stability, but adding weight to the belly, can make a plane sink to the ground.
At this stage we encouraged much experimentation and provided pennies, paper clips, paper airplane design books, straws, pipe cleaners, different types of paper and more.
Checking for symmetry
Leonardo's Horse - This book details one project which consumed Leonardo during his life. Unfortunately his larger than life horse was not built until the 20th century. Not only does this book provide a great historical background on the project, it also gives engineering and manufacturing details.
Leonardo Da Vinci by Emily Hahn - Leonardo worked for some of the most prominent people in Italy, had difficulty in finishing projects for them, and wasn't always paid. This biography on Leonardo also provides insight into world events and other important people of the Italian Renaissance.
Leonardo and the Flying Boy by Laurence Anholt is a Leonardo da Vinci picture book for young children which tells about some of Leonardo's flying machines.
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