I can't take credit for "inventing" this cool project but I've adapted this to make it a lot easier to build, and it can be done very quickly. This is an activity I do with my 7th and 8th grade students in a Small Engines Repair class, but it could be used for many other activities like drafting, measuring, studying the laws of motion, or even a history project, as it closely remembers an old hit and miss engine.
Content Learning Objective:
By building a Toilet Paper Engine, students will understand the basic principles of operation in an Internal Combustion Engine.
Language Learning Objective:
By building a Toilet Paper Engine, students will identify engine parts using their correct names; i.e.- a ping pong ball is not a ping pong ball, it is a Piston.
Please find included below an Instructions Booklet .pdf, a Template .pdf, and a Measurements Worksheet .pdf. Also included is a Google Sketchup model of the completed engine
I have had a few people ask about other resources relating to engines that could be used when teaching, so here are a few!
http://www.animatedengines.com/ Excellent website that shows cutaway animations of just about every type of engine you could imagine!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four-stroke_engine Wikipedia's take- a couple of great animations, TONS of information, and lots of other links to more websites.
http://www.animatedpiston.com/Home.htm A couple of animations of different motorcycle engines- neat because you can hide different parts of the engine while the animation is running.