A machine showing corn.

Be a storyteller: Use engineering to build an automaton

For hundreds of years, people have designed and created mechanical machines called automata that move and mimic humans, animals, and plants. Wheels, levers, and linkages work in tandem to create singing birds, bicyclers, and even wing-flapping ducks.

Program Length

The time for building the automata and listening to the story are flexible to each teacher’s discretion.

Learning Goals

  • People live in a designed world in which technology and society affect each other and the natural world.

  • The cultural knowledge of Minnesota communities reflects their understanding and interpretation of natural phenomena, and impacts decisions about the uses of Earth’s resources. 

  • The cultural knowledge of Minnesota communities can be shared in creative and innovative ways.

MN Academic Standards

MN Science Standards 2019: Communicating reasons, arguments and ideas to others (4E.4.2.2.1; 6E.4.2.2.1

MN Social Studies Standards 12/20 draft: 17. Explore spatial ways of thinking, ways of knowing (culture) and ways of being (identity) from different perspectives, including indigenous voices. 

Next Generation Science Standards

Disciplinary Core Ideas: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems (3-5-ETS1-1), Developing Possible Solutions (3-5-ETS1-2) (3-5-ETS1-3)

Science And Engineering Practices: Asking Questions and Defining Problems (3-5-ETS1-1); Planning and Carrying Out Investigations (3-5-ETS1-3); Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions (3-5-ETS1-2)

Crosscutting Concepts: Influence of Engineering, Technology and Science on Society and the Natural World (3-5-ETS1-1) (3-5-ETS1-2)