Friday, 15 April 2016

The Amazing Machines of Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci was born on April 15th 1452. We love to highlight design and tech role models and innovators and da Vinci is the archetype.

Leonardo was an Italian inventor, painter, scientist and more. Kids are likely to be familiar with some of his work but it's the entirety of his output that really makes him incredible. Let's take a look at how kids can learn about Leonardo da Vinci. 

Leonardo Quotes

Leonardo's scientific and artistic work was incredible but he also analysed how he was spending his time and many of his thoughts on how to live a worthwhile life were recorded. 

Here are a few of our favourite da Vinci quotes to inspire young makers:
  • "It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things."
  • "I have always felt it is my destiny to build a machine that would allow man to fly.
  • "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

Recreating Leonardo's Inventions

There are lots of cool models available that allow kids to recreate some of Leonard's best known inventions. A hands-on activity like model making really helps kids understand how something works rather than just glossing over written or pictorial details.

We rather like the da Vinci Catapult kit which can actually be used to launch small clay balls when completed. 

We've been enjoying LEGO Kinectic Sculptures recently so I was pleased to see that JK Brickworks has instructions for building a LEGO Da Vinci Flying Machine which can be motorised.

SciShow Great Minds Video

Hank Green provides an enthusiastic overview of Leonardo's achievements and the context in which they occurred. 

Remarkable Machines Book

There are lots of children's books about Leonardo da Vinci, but it's this one that caught my attention. Leonardo da Vinci's Remarkable Machines is an intricate pop-up book that explains several of his famous inventions.

The book looks like a fantastic piece of paper engineering and is a great way to introduce kids some Leonardo's brilliance.

The book is available for pre-order and will be released in August 2016.

London Science Museum
Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Genius

Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Genius is an exhibition at the Science Museum in London. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.

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Steve said...

Yes, the Science Museum exhibition is definitely worth a visit. Even better, though if you happen to be in Florence is the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum there ( They have lots of full-sized wooden models which makes it easier to understand how they work, many of which are "hands-on" and great fun for the kids.

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