While most students don't know it, simple machines are all around us. As a result, teaching them about the form and function of these devices can be fun and practical. Whether the project is for a science fair or for a classroom activity, these projects can be creative and can easily depart from the textbook lessons students are used to.
Get It Done
Start the project with a list of all the simple machines. Then have your students think of an easy task they want to accomplish, like closing a door, flipping a switch, or opening a drawer. Have them then work backward to determine how simple machines could accomplish this task. You can create a worksheet to go with the project that has a space for diagramming the proposed idea. The students can even create the device and take a video of the simple machines in action.
Fix This House
Give students a scenario in which they need to repair a house from top to bottom. The fridge is busted, the roof is leaky, the walls need paint, and all sorts of other things you can think of. Have your students draw a poster of the inside and outside of the house. Then, have them determine all the ways in which simple machines can be used in the renovation process. This can include the screwdriver (screw), ramps (inclined plane) and pulleys, really any of the simple machines. The students must use at least five examples of simple machines and include them on the poster. A written report can be included with the poster.
Students can apply their knowledge of pulleys, levers and springs to create a mousetrap-powered car. Provide them the mouse traps and materials such as wood, wire, fishing line, wheels, screws, screw-eyes, nail and glue. The students can then try to build the fastest car. Give them a week or two to create the cars at home or during lab time. Then have the students race their cars against each other, the winner possibly getting extra credit.
Simple Machines You Use The Most
Have your students create an experiment in which they chart the simple machines they use in their lives and which ones they use the most. Each student creates his own chart listing all the simple machines, and over the course of a week he can place a tally mark by each machine he uses. This can also include a separate section for complex machines in which he breaks the machines down into their component simple machines. After a week of data, the student can then create a graph showing which machines he uses the most on a week-to-week basis.
Balancing the Load
For this experiment you will need a see-saw, at least two students and one adult. The experiment will determine how the see-saw balances mass when balanced on a fulcrum. You will need to know the mass of the adult and the two children. Have the two children get on either edge of the see-saw. Do a few tests determining where the children need to sit to balance the weight perfectly, measuring the results. Then have one child stay on while the adult gets on the other side. Measure how far away from the fulcrum the adult needs to sit to balance the weight. Test out what happens when different combinations of the adult and the children move closer to and further away from the fulcrum.
- lever image by timur1970 from Fotolia.com