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The Big Machine

The Big Machine: the legendary Launchpad favourite! In collaboration with Science Projects, this amazing interactive can now be recreated for your space!

In 2006 the Science Museum’s Launchpad development team commissioned Science Projects to redevelop an old friend ‘The Grain Pit:’ a highlight of the first generation of the Science Museum’s Launchpad. The result of this exciting collaborative project is ‘The Big Machine’- A huge yet incredibly complex and refined, multiuser interactive exhibit whose impact dominates Launchpad today.

Big Machine tells the intriguing story of the working principles of machines: the wedge, the lever, the incline plane, the pulley and the wheel and axle. As users transport the tactile ‘grain’ through the machine’s components it succinctly demonstrates these principles whilst engaging exploration and play. The Big Machine appeals to young children and adults alike and is the most memorable exhibit to Launchpad visitors.

The Science Museum set a challenging task when they proposed 'The Big Machine.' It had to demonstrate individual machine components all working towards an end product. It also had to be collaborative and demonstrate the effectiveness of each component part in comparison to the others. In addition, all the mechanisms had to be visible and it had to be robust, after all 2.5 million visitors to the Science Museum will, prod, pull, and play with this interactive every year! The result of endless prototyping and tireless testing is what we can offer for sale today- The Big Machine.

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The Big Machine in Launchpad at the Science Museum.

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Designing the new version of Launchpad’s iconic Grain Pit was a challenge and a treat! We had to keep the essence of what is probably the most popular interactive exhibit in the world, yet improve on the learning and context. The solution we came up with was to make 'The Big Machine’ out of the 5 classes of simple machines that underlie technology – the lever, the wedge, the pulley, the Archimedes screw and the wheel and axle. The result is a dramatic and impressive exhibit, almost architectural in its form and one that illustrates much about mechanical advantage.

Anthony Richards
Gallery Programmes Manager, Science Museum

Key Theme

Forces and Motion

Target Audience

Enjoyed by all audiences but targeted at Key Stage 2 and 3 children (age 7-14) and their teachers plus families with children age 7-14 years.


The Big Machine is constructed using stainless steel which provides a tough and durable finish. It has a colour trim also from stainless steel which is powder-coated to provide the colour. Science Projects uses high quality, durable nylon coating which has an excellent resistance to damage by impact and abrasion. The five outer activities sit on tables made from high-density polyethylene maintenance which is impact resistant, recyclable and non-toxic. The table legs are made from nylon-coated stainless steel.
The entire exhibit will comfortably occupy an area of 50 to 64 square metres (164 to 210 square ft) and requires a minimum height of 4.8 metres.


Mechanical interactive exhibit. Exhibit designed for multi-user interaction.

Learning Messages

The Big Machine sits within the 'Forces and Motion' themed area of Launchpad with a target educational audience of Key Stage level 2 and 3.
Characterised by movement, scale and activity, The Big Machine demonstrates a range of learning outcomes including cognitive concepts and developing social skills. The Big Machine's learning messages include:
Machines make it easier for us to move things around or to do ‘work'.
A machine can be more or less efficient depending on its design and operation.
Central to this theme is an understanding of how forces act to change the motion of objects, this is formalised in Newton’s Laws of Motion. These laws describe how forces cause objects to speed up, slow down and/or change direction.
The Big Machine explores machines, the movement of materials, energy transfer and cooperative working.


The Big Machine can be seen in action in Launchpad on the 3rd Floor of the Science Museum.


To download information about The Big Machine in printable, PDF format click here.

More Information

If you would like further information on The Big Machine, explore the Science Projects web pages.

Contact Us

If you’d like to find out more about a specific product, or to see how the Science Museum could work with your organisation email our Commercial Development team at