Activity: Disassemble a Click Pen



One of the best ways to learn about how something works is to take it a part, look at the pieces and how they are connected. Unfortunately with technology getting smaller and more complex, this method becomes increasing more difficult. One device that has managed to stand the test of time, at least for a little while is the click pen. In this activity students will disassemble and analyze a click pen.

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY [1 = Least Difficult : 5 = Most Difficult]

3- average


30 min


$.73 per student


Mass. Frameworks T/E 3-5
1.3 Identify and explain the difference between simple and complex machines, i.e., hand can opener that includes multiple gears, wheel, wedge gear, and lever.
2.1 Identify a problem that reflects the need for shelter, storage, or convenience.
2.2 Describe different ways in which a problem can be represented, e.g., sketches, diagrams, graphic organizers, and lists
2.3 Identify relevant design features (e.g., size, shape, weight) for building a prototype of a solution to a given problem.

How a pen works by taking it apart, analyzing its components and their functions
How different components of a system work together to a desired end (in this case a retractable ball point)
The value of learning by disassembling product to discover how they work
Recognizing a design need i.e.: capped pen vs. click pen
Skills: analyzing and organizing variables to investigate how a system works, technical discussion about how the object works using new vocabulary
Other potential learning areas: compression of a spring, history of writing utensils
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: - Cross-section of ball point pen - Discription of ball point pen and other pens
Question and Answer sheet

Push button ballpoint pens
Outline cross-sectional diagram
Other pens and pencils for comparison
Bic Clear Clicks can be ordered from Specialty Promotions Unlimited at $.73 apiece by calling 1-800-539-3751 (or, This price includes the addition of any message or logo you wish. (The econo-pen is cheaper SM-103 ECONO-PEN.) Pens like the BIC Clic (TM) Pen that twist apart into separate barrels where the pieces can fall out easily are best to use so the students do not have to do a lot of breaking apart of the casing. It is rumored they can be bought in boxes of 12, but we suspect that the design is being replaced with the barrel variety which doesn’t unscrew.
0. Ask some focusing questions.
1. Have students complete the handout “Click Pen Investigation”. (This can be done before the students receive the actual pen.)
2. Distribute copies of drawing worksheet “Clic Pen”. Discuss the two views presented. (The cross-sectional view shows only the barrel and the cap. There are many other parts in this pen.)
3. Distribute copies of the rubric.
4. Students should carefully disassemble the pen.
5. Students should fill in the missing parts in the cross-sectional diagram and label them appropriately.
6. Students will explore possible ways to make the pen work/not work by removing (and modifying?) parts.
7. Students write in their journal. Prompts: “Choose one part of this pen and describe how it works in words and drawings.”, or, “Can you make this pen simpler or cheaper by leaving out any parts? Explain in writing and drawings.”

How does this pen work?
How could you describe the function of each of the parts?
What parts of the pen are essential for making the tip retractable?
Is it retractable? What parts help it move in and out of the casing? What happens if you leave a part of the system out? Does the pen still work? How does this pen write? Could you refill or reuse this pen once the ink is gone? Compare this pen with another type, how are they the same or different? Which one is a better design? Why?


See Associated Download.


See Associated Download.