Boulton and Watt engine - For Teachers

The wheels
The wheels
There are four wheels - the planet gear, the sun gear, the large flywheel and the drive wheel at the back.

The ‘original’ piston
The ‘original’ piston
The piston is on display here because we have put a smaller piston and cylinder inside the engine's cylinder, to prevent wearing out the original parts

Boulton and Watt animation
Boulton and Watt animation

Teaching and Learning Resources
Take your students on a journey exploring the world’s oldest surviving rotative engine, the lives of James Watt and Matthew Boulton, and the world in the late 1700s.
See this amazing steam engine in action live (subject to steam engine driver availability) or on screen. In the galleries behind the engine, use interactives to understand three of the innovations built into the engine, learn how the successful partnership between engineer James Watt and entrepreneur Matthew Boulton brought a new kind of power to the world, and catch a glimpse of life in the 1700s.
This exhibition uses rare and significant objects, historic images, simple interactives and an excellent video of the engine to create an environment that encourages student enquiry and reflection. It fosters experiential and collaborative learning centred on a world-changing technology from the 1700s. Not only did engines like this one transform working lives and cities, but their use also led to huge growth in the amount of fossil fuel burned and thus to significant impacts on our environment.

Syllabus links
Boulton and Watt engine exhibition and its associated programs and resources supports learning in the following subject areas:-

  1. Science and technology (Stages 1–3)
    - Content strand: ‘Physical phenomena’
    - Stage 2 units: ‘Out and About’ and ‘Making it easy’
  2. HSIE (Stage 1 – 3)
    - Content strand: ‘Resource systems’
    - Stage 1 unit: ‘The way we were’
    - Stage 2 unit: ‘Who will buy’
  3. COGs units (Stages 1-3)
    - Stage 1: ‘Powering on’
    - Stage 2: ‘Machines’
    - Stage 3: ‘Physical phenomena’
  4. Science (Stage 4)
    - Outcome 4.12: A student identifies, using examples, common simple devices and explains why they are used
  5. Design and Technology (Stage 4)
    - Outcome 4.2.1: describes the impact of past, current and emerging technologies on the individual, society and environments
  6. Industrial Technology (Stage 4)
    - Outcome 4.7.2: recognises the impact of technology on society and the environment
    - Outcome 4.7.3: describes cultural and global issues in relation to the use of technology

St Petersburg Mint drawing
St Petersburg Mint drawing
You can see a large copy of this drawing in the gallery behind the engine. Note the boiler (with fire under it), the engine (with wooden beam but otherwise similar to ours), the machines powered by the engine (one has two rollers for flattening metal before circles are cut out of it to make coins), and the figures in Russian dress.

The following resources have been developed to support teaching and learning in relation to the exhibition:
link Pre-visit exhibition slideshow (prepares students for the visit)

Boulton and Watt engine - Pre-visit exhibition slideshow

Relevant programs

  1. Locomotive No 1 exhibition
  2. The steam revolution exhibition
  3. Transport exhibition
  4. Marvellous Machines Drawing Adventure self-guided program for years 3-5(Cost: $10 per student, including museum admission)

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For more information or to book your visit, call (02) 9217 0222 or email