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Science Fun #3: Simple Machines

Simple machines are tools that make work easier. They have few or no moving parts. These machines use energy to work. Here are several fun activities to investigate this topic.

Look around your house and other places you go and find at least one example of each of the following simple machines:

inclined plane
wheel and axle

This is a good website that explains the different simple machines:
http://www.mos.org/sln/Leonardo/InventorsToolbox.html Activities:

1. Make a drawing of each of the simple machines that you found.

2. Brainstorm ideas for examples of each of the simple machines.
Levers--teeter totter, oar, rake, hoe, bat, pick, fork, screw driver, snow shovel, hammer, bottle opener, light switch, pancake turner, stapler, crowbar, scissors, car jack, etc.
Screw--different sizes of screws for metal or wood, drill, meat grinder, bolts, nuts, cork screw, swivel chair, jar lid, etc.
Inclined plane (ramp)--ladder, escalator, hill, roller coaster, stairs, wheelchair ramp, gangplank, dump truck, unloading ramp, parkade, etc.
Wedge- -paper cutter, scissors, crowbar, chisel, axe, prying tools, can opener, door wedge, pins, needles, nails, etc.
Pulley- -fan belt, elevators, steam shovels, flagpole, clothesline pulleys, derricks, cranes, lifts, pulleys, gears, old-fashioned well, block and tackle, winch, wire stretchers, venetian blinds, etc.
Wheel and axle--windmill, bicycle, roller skate, vehicles, rolling pin, egg beater, helicopter, old-fashioned telephone dial, fishing reel, record player, tapes, door knob, pencil sharpener, bobbins, fans, casters, etc.

3. Use scrap paper. In how many ways, can it be changed without use of any tools (simple machines)? (folding, crushing, tearing) If use of tools is allowed how can a piece of paper be further changed? (cutting, colouring or writing on it, poking holes in it, etc.) What kind of force was used in each case? Position of the paper can also be changed. Does it slide easily on a surface? Does it move more easily once it is crushed? What forces are involved? Drop the paper. Now what force is involved?

4. Discuss different kinds of motion. In gym class have students demonstrate rolling, sliding, hopping, rotating, gliding, moving backward and forward, and side to side. Try a tug-of-war. Use a bench as a slide. In class have students assemble a chart with pictures cut from magazines to identify different types of movement and objects that move in these ways. Discuss motion, whether push or pull were involved, how friction may affect each movement, whether inertia and gravity helped or hindered movement, etc.

5. Further experiment with friction by using various surfaces from smooth to rough (desk top, coarse and fine sandpaper, waxed surface, etc.) You might even include several pieces of doweling or pencils so an object can roll along. Use a small box with some objects inside, an attached string, and a spring scale. Measure the differences in force required to pull the box over each surface. Predict. Discuss. Record.

6. Discuss friction as it pertains to our daily lives. When is friction useful? Have students generate examples. (grips on shoes and boots, sandpaper, sand on icy sidewalks and roads, tires, etc.) When is it a hindrance? Give examples. (moving objects such as furniture, sliding on a rough surface, wearing out of moving and rubbing parts of machines, etc.)


Materials: wooden ruler, textbook, and a desktop
Procedure: Lay a ruler on your desk with part of it hanging over the edge. Place a textbook on the other end. Try to lift the book by pressing down on the part of the ruler that is sticking out. Repeat this procedure several times. Move the book closer to the edge by pulling on the ruler. Continue until the book is right at the table's edge.
Was it easier to lift the book with a short or long ruler?
Conclusion: The ruler is a lever in this experiment. The edge of the table is the fulcrum. And the book is the load. It is easier to move an object, like the book, when the fulcrum is closer to the load.

Inclined Plane:
Materials: Large books, ruler, one cup of rice inside a small plastic sandwich bag (closed with a twist tie), rubber band strip tied to the top of the bag
Procedure: Stack the books in one pile. Lean one book against the other to create an inclined plane. Place the bag of rice on the table. While holding the end of the rubber band, lift the bag of rice straight up to the top of your book stack. Use the ruler to measure the length of the rubber band. Now put the bag of rice at the bottom of the inclined plane and drag it to the top of the stack of books by pulling on the rubber band. When it is almost to the top, measure the length of the rubber band.
Why was the rubber band more stretched when the bag was lifted straight up into the air?
Conclusion: It took more work to move the bag of rice straight up into the air. This is why the rubber band was stretched farther. It takes less force to move the bag of rice up the inclined plane.


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