Apocalypto | A Project Summary


Abstract: Human history is punctuated by the prolific rise and inevitable collapse of civilization after civilization. In this project, students formulated hypotheses for these fluctuations, compared their hypotheses with historical evidence, mapped quantitative changes throughout history, and then created a narrative and mechanical representation of their findings. Their work was then exhibited on the eve of the Mayan Apocalypse.

Humanities Context: Students studied the rise and fall of civilizations throughout history then developed their own cyclic theories of civilization. Students created research paper based on their hypotheses.

Engineering & Physics Work: Students created physical manifestations of their social theories using mechanical apparatus. They were given a blank template space to work within and specifications for their mechanism to mate with the larger class gear. Groups deconstructed their theories into logical steps and proposed a way to mechanically represent each aspect of their theory. They then began the design and fabrication process.

Related Posts/Media:

  • Video: Irwin Jacobs and Larry Rosenstock talk about projects (featuring Apocalypto). Posted above.
  • Video: Glamour Shots of finished project. Posted above.
  • Newsweek Article, discussing our project and the maker movement in education.
  • A detailed post about the conception and implementation of Apocalypto.
  • A detailed post-project reflection about what worked, what didn’t, and what to try next time.
  • Project proposal, design files, and finished product (below).


  1. stunning, beautiful…education at the point of inspiration and curiosity. the children will live with this accomplishment as a personal resource for years. it is so wonderful.


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