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Can you dream up a new measurement unit?

  • Metres, seconds, newtons, amps… are examples of units that we all use to measure things
  • There are international agreements about how they are defined
  • You can have fun creating useful or crazy units​
  • NPL staff participate in committees discussing measurement units for worldwide science, safety, trade, health and industry​

Estimated time: 20 minutes     ​

Have fun thinking of ideas - no limit to the number of entries​

Invent a unit worksheet

Invent a unit results report

Equipment required​

  • Just your imagination


If you have a really good idea, we may get back to you to ask if we can promote it internationally and you may become famous.


Step by step

Watch the video and then follow the steps...

  1. Think about what a measurement unit is used for. ​
  2. Think about what matters to you and how your new measurement unit might help you and others. For instance, a unit to measure a sensible amount of screen time spent each day. What would you call it? ​
  3. Think of a good name for your unit. It could relate to its use, like the candela, which connects to the brightness of a candle. Maybe you could name it after yourself, like the Newton which measures force.
  4. Someone invented the beard-second, a humorous (not internationally recognised) length unit which is how long a beard grows in one second.
  5. The Mickey (named after Mickey Mouse) is the length of the smallest detectable movement of a computer mouse. ​
  6. Share your idea on social media using #Measurementathome, or send it to us using the form below. ​
  7. Repeat as many times as you like. You could have fun with family and friends discussing this – brilliant ideas can come from such chats.​

Thoughts, tips and information

SI measurement units​

There are just SI measurement 7 base units (represented by NPL’s coloured SI-Bot robots). Can you name these units?​ 


Challenge Topics:

Measurement Science, Maths, Physics​

  • On 20 May in 1875 the International System of Units was born, so it is celebrated as World Metrology Day.​
  • There are many measurement units. Historically, countries used different units for the same quantities which made trade, science and engineering difficult. ​
  • Human body parts were often used in units, even of particular people – the cubit related to the length of an Egyptian pharaoh's arm.​
  • Prefixes are used to simplify describing things bigger or smaller than the unit. A gigasecond is one thousand million seconds (about 31.7 years). Some NPL staff celebrate gigasecond birthdays!​

Submit your ideas

You can enter as many ideas as you like THOUGH PLEASE REFRESH THIS PAGE BEFORE EACH NEW ENTRY.
Each time you click Submit, you will send us the information written in the cells below.

* These are optional – the name is so we could mention you in the end of week report and the postcode is to see where people are taking part. We won’t use this information for anything else.