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Activity: Conveyor Engineering


Lesson courtesy of


In this activity, teams of students in grades 3 to 12 explore how engineers work to solve such societal problems as moving goods, materials, and people by developing a conveyor system out of everyday materials than can transport  pieces of candy 4 feet, including a 90-degree turn. Teams evaluate their results and reflect on them as a class.

Grade level: 3 – 12

Time: Two or three 45-minute sessions

Learning objectives       conveyor belt

  • Learn about engineering design and redesign
  • Learn about manufacturing processes and conveyor systems
  • Learn how engineering can help solve society’s challenges
  • Learn about teamwork and problem solving

Learning Outcomes

As a result of this activity, students should develop an understanding of:

  • engineering design
  • manufacturing and distribution
  • conveyor systems
  • teamwork


National Science Education Standards

CONTENT STANDARD A: Science as Inquiry
As a result of activities, all students should develop

  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
  • Understanding about scientific inquiry

CONTENT STANDARD B: Physical Science
As a result of the activities, all students should develop an understanding of

  • Properties of objects and materials
  • Position and motion of objects
  • Properties and changes of properties in matter [grades 5-8]
  • Motions and forces [grades 5 -8]
  • Conservation of energy and increase in disorder [grades 9-12]   sushi conveyor
  • Interactions of energy and matter [grades 9-12]

CONTENT STANDARD E: Science and Technology
As a result of activities, all students should develop

  • Abilities of technological design
  • Understanding about science and technology

CONTENT STANDARD F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
As a result of activities, all students should develop understanding of

  • Types of resources
  • Science and technology in local challenges
  • Risks and benefits [grades 5 -8]
  • Science and technology in society [grades 5 -8]
  • Personal and community health [grades 9-12]
  • Science and technology in local, national, and global challenges [grades 9-12]

CONTENT STANDARD G: History and Nature of Science
As a result of activities, all students should develop understanding of

  • Science as a human endeavor
  • History of science [grades 5 -8]    Luggage sculpture
  • Historical perspectives [grades 9-12]

National Technological Literacy Standards

The Nature of Technology

  • Standard 1: Students will develop an understanding of the characteristics and

scope of technology.

Technology and Society

  • Standard 4: Students will develop an understanding of the cultural, social,
    economic, and political effects of technology.
  • Standard 6: Students will develop an understanding of the role of society in the
    development and use of technology.
  • Standard 7: Students will develop an understanding of the influence of technology on history.


  • Standard 8: Students will develop an understanding of the attributes of design.
  • Standard 9: Students will develop an understanding of engineering design.
  • Standard 10: Students will develop an understanding of the role of troubleshooting, research and development, invention and innovation, and experimentation in problem solving.
  • Abilities for a Technological World
  • Standard 11: Students will develop abilities to apply the design process.
  • Standard 13: Students will develop abilities to assess the impact of products and systems.

The Designed World

  • Standard 18: Students will develop an understanding of and be able to select and use transportation technologies

Materials   conveyor belt schematic

For each team:

  • Candy or similar sized items, such as washers or pennies
  • Tubes (can be paper towel rolls, toilet paper rolls, or PVC)
  • Piping or other similar materials – or even rows of soda bottles or pencils
  • Rubber bands
  • Ball bearings
  • Balls
  • Fabric sheets
  • String
  • Gears
  • Handles
  • Paper cups   luggage cartoon conveyor
  • Straws
  • Paper towels
  • Paper clips
  • Tape
  • Soda bottle
  • Glue
  • String
  • Foil
  • Plastic wrap
  • Pens/Pencils
  • Paper
  • Hose or tubes
  • Crayons and other items available in the classroom

Procedure    suitcase cartoon

  • 1. Show students the student reference sheets. (Page 4 – 7 of the pdf.) These may be read in class or
    provided as reading material for the prior night’s homework.
  • 2. To introduce the lesson, consider asking the students if they have been to anairport and wondered how their luggage was sorted or delivered. Ask them to think about any “moving sidewalks” they have traveled on (airports, malls, other large buildings).
  • 3. Working in teams of 3 to 4, students should research how conveyor belt systems operate and then brainstorm ideas for designing one.
  • 4. Teams then consider available materials and develop a detailed drawing showing
    their conveyor system including a list of materials they will need to build it.
  • 5. Have students build and test their conveyor system, also observing the systems developed and tested by other student teams.
  • 6. Teams reflect on the challenge, and present their experiences to the class.


  • Have advanced or older students power their conveyor systems with motors or gear systems.
  • Have students write an essay or a paragraph about three existing and one imagined application of a conveyor belt system.


Ford Motor Company History – The Assembly Line

Hydrol’s ABC Conveyor Book. Schematics of the different parts and configurations

Simple animation of conveyor belt. [YouTube

Animation of conveyor belt with engine. [YouTube 0:39 secs]

The Invention of the Moving Assembly Line: A Revolution in Manufacturing (ISBN:

Watch I Love Lucy‘s hilarious skit about working on a candy assembly line:


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