Elevators, Stairs, and Escalators

  • Time Length
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    1-2 hours

  • Mess Level
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    A Little Messy

  • Cost

    Materials or Fees

  • Difficulty
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Question and Wonder:

  • Why do we have stairs?
  • Where did elevators come from? How do they work?
  • Why do the doors open that way?
  • Why do escalators only go up or down? Where do the stairs go at the top and bottom?
  • I wonder if there are other ways to get up and down inside….
  • What if stairs were never invented….

Next time you are in a building that has an elevator, an escalator, or stairs, take a closer look at them. Notice their design. See if you can figure out how they work. What if you could change them…..

Imagine and Design:

  • Which is your favorite way to get up and down in a building? Why?
  • What if an elevator could go side to side? In circles? How would that work?
  • How does an elevator know where to stop?
  • What do you notice about stairway design?
  • How could you make an escalator that goes both ways?
  • What other ways could we travel up and down?
  • How could you design something to take the place of stairs, elevators, and escalators?

Design a way to get from floor to floor using the materials listed above. What if your invention didn’t just go up and down….

Use the height of your room from floor to ceiling as a reference or build you design inside a box using the height of the box as your “room”.   You can even stack boxes…how can you climb from one to the other…

Test and Discuss:

  • What do you like the best about your design?
  • How would it change depending on the building it was in?
  • What design choices did you make? Why?

Did You Know:

Stairs are as old as the buildings that use them. The first stairs were rocks or logs that were stacked for climbing into caves or raised huts. As civilization and building techniques advanced around the world, staircase design evolved with them.

Follow these links for images of some amazing staircases, escalators, and elevators around the world:

Follow the links below to learn more about the design and function of stairs, elevators, and escalators:

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