Key Stage 2 Mechanisms Primary Projects

Fair Ground

Design and make a model of a fairground ride that will be an exciting ride for all ages. It will use gears to create interesting movements and will be powered by an electric motor.

The pupils enjoy all the fun of the fair investigating the range of rides and then in groups work to make a frame from which they develop their own designs for a new exciting ride.

Many of them will have experienced fun fairs and theme parks, so it is a chance for them to bring in their knowledge into the work. If needed they can research into the existing rides and depending on the depth required they can look at the materials used, the science and the health and safety requirements.

This project will take 6 half day sessions and can be extended to incorporate many aspects of other subjects such as science, English, math, history and geography. 

Fairground model

List of resources


  • 10mm softwood pack
  • Pre cut tech card strips
  • Thin card
  • Paper sticks 5mm diameter
  • Dowel 5mm diameter 
  • 62mm 50mm and 25mm card centres
  • Card corners
  • Electric motor with worm gear drive
  • Battery holders for either 2AA or 1AA
  • AA batteries
  • Strong PVA glue
  • Assorted coloured paper, string, decoration stuff


  • Plastic gear jigs, one per group
  • Links red corner jigs, 8 per group
  • Junior hack saws
  • Corner bench hooks with 10mm slots
  • Metal rule
  • Pencils
  • Scissors

The Fairground Project

The main focus of this project is for the pupils to develop an understanding of gears, movement and powering a model with a small electric motor. They work in a team to build a cuboid that acts as a support frame for all the mechanisms.

By starting on the practical making, the project gains momentum and the pupils become very enthusiastic about their ideas. There are points when they might be glueing pieces together, so they can be researching existing rides and considering their designs while the basic construction takes place.

All the groups will build a standard cuboid, so they will then think about how their designs might work by experimenting with some of the gears that they have created. This gives them a chance to work collaboratively and try things out, working as a group to decide what might be the best design. There are many opportunities here for written, drawing and sketch work, as well as the discussion between pupils to reason out what might work best.

They do have to consider the experience of the user, what they might feel going on the ride, and how the excitement might be created. They have to come up with a name for the ride and then they can work on the graphics the colours they will use and an advertising campaign to attack visitors.

The practical work is closely guided with simple cutting and measuring templates, then the construction is aided by the Links corners that guarantee the joints will form right angles and will take account of some inaccuracies in the cutting. The structure is made up of 10mm square wooden strips and the corners are strengthened by thin card triangles, all held together with a strong PVA wood glue. This system is well tried and tested and very rarely do the frames fail to come together as a useable cuboid. Even if there are mistakes, they are easily rectified and the groups all end up with a good structure. 

The axle supports are made from pre-punched card strips. This helps the pupils by being able to line up the edges of the card with the frame, then the holes will all be aligned across the frame and makes it more likely that the gears will work.

The gears are at the heart of the construction. Each group will have a plastic template, into which they can place cut paper sticks to form the teeth of the gears. 

By using this technique they learn about jigs and the importance of cutting and assembling accurately. Again they use measuring and cutting guides and glue the paper sticks to card centres with PVA glue in the plastic jig. They can make as many gears as the like and they will certainly have to work out which ones they need for their design. Maybe there is a chance here for groups to swap gears that they might not use. The gears themselves work very well together and, due to their widening spacing of the paper stick teeth, they mesh together very well, with a great deal of tolerance, on the final model. They also make a real satisfying working click sound as they mesh. 

I usually have examples of mechanisms that the pupils can look at and work from to design their own movements. It makes their first experience of gears easier if they have models to work from and even if they copy the movements,  they still have to assemble their own version and experience interference, meshing, gear ratios and when the gears wont work together. This stage of the making does take careful planning and the pupils do have to be aware of what they are trying to create, what the end product will look like and how it will work. This means that they cannot just cobble a machine together and it will work! A very valuable lesson in design and planning to ensure that the end product will achieve their goals.

The final part of the design work is to bring together the working mechanism with the graphics and the styling work, the colours, the name, and the imagery connected to the ride. Hopefully they will have a motor attached to create a free standing, moving machine. This ensures a whole look at the end of the project which will make an excellent school display.   The pupils can work in their teams to prepare a background, an advertising campaign and use digital photography to present their work.

Cross Curricular Links

Technology and science of gravity, friction and movement. Look at wheels and bearings, maintenance lubrication and the materials involved. Systems of health and safety to ensure people are not injured. Mechanisms of gears, how to make things go faster and slower. Positive drives like rack and pinion and difference between gears and pulley systems. Relate the gears to bicycles and simple objects like hand whisks to change direction and change speed.

Geography and History – research into the history of fairgrounds including Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, and the rise of theme parks around the world.

English – descriptive work on fairground rides and the vocabulary of excitement, danger and thrills. 

Diary of the project, explaining the roles of each member of the group. Recorded discussions and outcomes. List of the process of making as a flow diagram in command language.

Design work, presentation of the preliminary design thinking to others. Questioning each other to promote understanding. Presentation of final design, pictures, video, speech.

Cuboid Diagram

Math – practical measuring and cutting of all the components. Fitting gears and parts in place to make them the right size for the model. Calculate the speed, ratios of the sizes of gears. Use of scale.

Languages – use of vocabulary, words derived from other languages to describe the fairground. 

Art – images of fairgrounds linked to Victorian fun fairs to modern day theme parks. Link advertising to emotion and excitement. 

Drawings of the fairground ride itself, putting it in context with surroundings and relating the design to the imagery.

How might the fairground be celebrated in other countries? What imagery would they use?

Digital photography, videos of the final model with colours, name and backdrop.