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Inventing in the Spirit of Leonardo

In this activity, participants will consider present-day problems and create and make working models to solve them. Visitors can work alone or in small groups to make machines to solve a challenge. Once the machines are created, visitors can make videos showing how they work. Like Leonardo, visitors can choose to create machines with useful applications, or pursue whimsical challenges just for the fun of it!

As an engineer, Leonardo da Vinci was a visionary of his time who designed both practical and unusual machines for a variety of applications, from the stage to the battlefield – and everything in between!
Many of his machines are clearly rendered in his characteristic drawing style, and are important solutions to problems: how to lift heavy blocks in the construction of a cathedral, siege engines to defend a castle, or bridges to cross a river. There are unusual ways to launch projectiles, and many considerations for how to enable humans to fly – not a typical concern at the time, but for the genius Leonardo, worthy of his time to consider.

Derek Wulff

Derek Wulff is an award-winning educational kit designer, specializing in Leonardo da Vinci design and interactive STEM kits. He also makes larger working machines for Leonardo da Vinci Museums, and collaborates with science centers and universities to make hands-on materials for maker spaces, engineering outreach, and other STEM programs. Starting out as a teacher, he now runs a global company that sells building kits to many of the best museums and science centers around the world. You can see his designs at