How kids can make a hand crank water pump

Written by heather lacey
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How kids can make a hand crank water pump
The Archimedes screw is a primitive water pump. (water drops enters into water image by Denis Tabler from

Moving water from low ground to high ground was a challenge for ancient peoples. Prior to water pumps, water was moved manually with buckets. The Archimedes screw was one of the first water pumps, and it is still used in irrigation and other commercial applications today. This simple pump operates on the principle of positive displacement--water is forced into a coiled tube by suction which pumps the water through the tube to its destination.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Plastic bowls (2)
  • Empty boxes (2)
  • Utility knife
  • Pencil
  • 1-inch wide by 1-foot long dowel rod
  • 3 feet of clear plastic tubing
  • Glue gun
  • Eyehook

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  1. 1

    Place two empty boxes bottom side up on a flat surface. Place a bowl face down in the middle of one of the box's bottoms and trace around it with a pencil. Carefully cut inside the traced line with a utility knife to make a circle just smaller than the lip of the bowl. Press the bowl into the hole so it is practically flush with the box's surface.

  2. 2

    Screw the eyehook into one end of the wooden dowel. This will be the handle for cranking the pump.

  3. 3

    Wrap the plastic tubing around the dowel so it spirals around the length of the dowel. Secure the tube in place with a few dabs of hot glue at the beginning, ends and middle of the dowel.

  4. 4

    Lean the dowel against the box with the bowl in it so the eyehook is above the bowl. Cut a circular notch on the edge of the box to provide a space for the dowel to rest. This notch should provide enough clearance for the dowel to spin freely when turned by the eyehook.

  5. 5

    Place the other bowl at the other end of the dowel. The dowel can rest in the bowl completely. Fill this bowl with water.

  6. 6

    Use the eyehook at the elevated end of the dowel to turn the dowel clockwise. Water will begin to travel from the bowl at the lower end of the dowel and be deposited into the bowl at the higher end.

Tips and warnings

  • Make sure that the ends of the plastic tubing are near the ends of the dowel.
  • Use a couple of drops of food colouring in the water to make it more visible as it travels up the tube.
  • Any size of box can be used as long as the dowel remains at an angle with the water at the lower side.
  • Adult supervision is recommended for this project, especially when using the utility knife.

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