Picture of Air Engine
Inspire the next generation of engineers, challenge their ability and push the boundaries of what they thought a 13year old can make and challenge what you think a teacher can teach!

This is a project I run in my after school engineering club, normally air/steam engines are difficult to make and even harder to get running, I studied various plans and developed this relatively easy build..........even a poorly made example will run. It is a proud moment for both the student and the teacher when they complete and run one of these. Check the video to see one in action.

Learning Objective

Students will apply a series of fundamental engineering skills using a variety of equipment and machinery to work with precision, this includes lathes and milling machines. They have the opportunity to either work independently from a step by step guide or if unsure about a process can ask a friend or teacher for guidance enabling them to learn a new skill. Students aim to recall previously learnt skills and apply in a more challenging situation, they have to use a metal lathe to drill to a precise depth, parallel turn to a specific tolerance,  and......... they will also learn how to cast aluminium. This project is a skills challenge and a massive confidence builder.

Future learning objective

I am intending on expanding this next year to include scientific calculations.
  • F=MA
  • PSI Vs RPM graph
  • Efficiency

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Step 1: Students Work

Picture of Students Work
Here are two typical examples of a students work.....remember these kids are only 13!

Step 2: Fly Wheel - Making the mould

Picture of Fly Wheel - Making the mould
Materials; Styrofoam 75 x 75 x 20mm + 30 x 20 x 60
  • Scribe a Ø70mm circle on the Styrofoam using a divider or compass
  • Cut out with a coping saw then use the disk sander until round
  • Collect a 'runner' and cut a V groove in the top then flatten the other end on a disk sander
  • See teacher to stick together with superglue.

DenverAnne1 month ago

Hi there. I've been looking for a tutorial on how to build a minni diesel engine for my year 10 science project but haven't found anything that can help me, luckily Google helped me find this tutorial. It's not diesel but I'll enjoy making it either way. Thanks so much from Wynberg Girls High school, South Africa!

bosko901 year ago
Nice air engine! did you try it with steam?

These is my steam engine from student project:

now make it street legal... and go 60mph
cj86752 years ago
you should make the kids do everything. My grandfather tought me the lathe and vertical milling machine at age six (am 14 now)
apb922 years ago
Can you tell me how the air supply is fitted, is it just a push fit?
Also what length, diameter and strength spring is best to use?

jonnyd55 (author)  apb922 years ago
hi, good questions :) air supply is just push into the hole. a light spring is best, the nut allows adjustment of pressure.
could you please tell me the dimension thickness of the chassis this would be much apreciated
jonnyd55 (author)  connercrawford20122 years ago
Hi, it doesn't really matter. I have made engines that have had 10mm chassis. However this design uses 5mm
what was the tickness of this plate as i cant seem to find it your help would be much apreciated
Any ideas on what else it could be used for?
jonnyd55 (author)  Archemedes543 years ago
anything that uses a low torque revolving motion
or use a car alternator and run it off of that to get elctrycyty
jonnyd55 (author)  tinker2343 years ago
unfortunately the alternator would require more torque than the engine could generate + you would get less energy out the alternator than you put into the compressor! if you have any ideas on how to solve that issue you will quickly become the richest person in the world!
maybe a series of belts and pulleys
this is amazing !
you should design an air powered car ! that thing would run itself. you would become a millionare
jonnyd55 (author)  curious youth3 years ago
especially if it ran of flatulence!
not if theres a reservoir :)
Ahmed23 years ago
vedry good
Nice Ible, a teacher needs to run it through a spell-checker though....
jonnyd55 (author)  steveastrouk3 years ago
Not the first time thats been said....a combo of dyslexia and monkey typing results in some dodgy spelingz
Where are you based ? If you're doing this in the UK, it makes great ammunition for me and the head of DT at the school I help in to go for funds. The "school lathe" is a disaster area - there's no lubricant been near it for 20 years.

jonnyd55 (author)  steveastrouk3 years ago
Im based in south cambs / north essex is that anywhere near you? if it is im sure we could arrange a visit to our school to see the awesome stuff we do in graphics, resistive, engineering, textiles, electronics and food.
I'd like to really kick things up in my sons' school. DT is a dead end topic there. It sounds like you're running it the way I would ;-)

I'm up in Lancashire.

colorex3 years ago
Hey Jonny,

I would say that this could run as a steam engine as well, just connect it to a steam boiler instead of a compressor.
jonnyd55 (author)  colorex3 years ago
it absolutely will :) however home made pressurised steam is not allowed in a school unless the boiler pressure tested by a H&S company :( its a shame H&S is killing any fun we might like to have in life!
In the UK at least, model engineering clubs often have people who can pressure test small boilers with the correct hydraulic equipment.
jonnyd55 (author)  steveastrouk3 years ago
your probably right, i would expect its excluded from all schools. I have never checked as I would not allow my students to make one......just in case they got hurt....... its a shame really :(
REA jonnyd553 years ago
Also, most schools budget their funds in favor of sports programs, mainly football.apparently little Johny throwing a football 150+ yards is more important than Billy being able to design a high-efficiency steam engine.
colorex REA3 years ago
That's sooo sarcastically true! I wish it were the other way around!
Nice! Just don't forget to post it!
This excellent on many levels. First, it's a great instructable. Second, it's great that you're doing this level of work with kids of that age (or any age in school.) Third, it's a great device by itself. You should be commended. 5 stars.

jonnyd55 (author)  bloomautomatic3 years ago
Hi, thanks for the nice comment and the awesome patch :) i like your kinetic man it made me remember back to when I was 13, as i made one at school! but it was nowhere as cool as yours.... I will investigate the idea further.... watch this space :)
these are better done than the work of some 18 year old students at my school
Well he does have access to materials, mills, lathes, and casting equipment. Your average middle/high school usually doesn't have any of that.
jonnyd55 (author)  thoraxe3 years ago
Its not that a high school is missing equipment...... they are missing the right tech / shop teachers who pester local companies to buy the equip for the school..... just like we do at our school
More like H+S policy excludes it - it does in the school I volunteer in.