An Intro Lesson to Simple Machines for Middle School Students

December 14th, 2015 by Deborah Fike

We’re always excited to hear from teachers who have used The Incredible Machine in their classroom for many years.  Douglas Klier of The Willows Community School is one such teacher.  He is also generous enough to let us share one of his tried and true lesson plans that you can use with Contraption Maker.  He originally used this with 8th grade science students, but you can modify his idea to teach simple machines to a variety of grade levels.

Below are the instructions and example machine that students were given to complete the lesson:

Simple Machine Lesson Instructions

Create a Rube Goldberg styled mechanism using Contraption Maker.  Your mechanism must use at least 4 different types of simple machines to accomplish a single task (wheel and axle, lever, pulley, inclined plane).

1. You must decide on a task to perform (a goal). Here are some examples:

  • Put the ball in the basket
  • Feed the mice to the alligator
  • Save the mice from the alligator
  • Help the mouse find its home
  • Launch the people into space

2. You must use at least 4 different types of simple machines, but you may use as many of each as needed. For example, you could use 2 wheels, 3 levers, 2 pulleys, and 1 inclined plane. All of these simple machines must contribute to your goal.

3. Your project (the actual contraption you created with the program) must be saved to your server folder. In addition, you will use the “print screen” function on the computer to copy and paste an image of your contraption into a Word document. This document will be labeled using ABC’s to show the order of steps from start to finish, and each simple machine is underlined.  Each step is then described below the image.

Here is an example:

Basketball Genius Example

GOAL: Capture the ball in the basket

A. The iron ball rolls down the inclined plane.

B. The iron ball lands on a lever, launching the basketball down another inclined plane.

C. The ball shooter sends the basketball into a double lighter, which sparks a flame.

D. The flame lights the fuse of a rocket.

E. The rocket is launched into a hamster cage, which makes the hamster run on his wheel.

F. His wheel is connected to a conveyor belt, which launches an iron ball onto a pair of scissors (lever).

G. The scissors cut a rope that is connected through a series of pulleys to a cage.

H. The cage then falls onto the unsuspecting basketball.

 

4. Make your contraption as complicated as possible. Rube Goldberg’s cartoons were intended to be “symbols of man’s capacity for exerting maximum effort to accomplish minimal results.”  Make Rube proud!

For more information about Rube Goldberg, visit the Official Rube Goldberg Site: http://www.rube-goldberg.com/

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