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Engineering: Simple Machines


Unit Summary: Simple machines are devices with few or no moving parts that make work easier. Students are introduced to the six types of simple machines — the wedge, wheel and axle, lever, inclined plane, screw, and pulley — in the context of the construction of a pyramid, gaining high-level insights into tools that have been used since ancient times and are still in use today. In two hands-on activities, students begin their own pyramid design by performing materials calculations, and evaluating and selecting a construction site. The six simple machines are examined in more depth in subsequent lessons in this unit.

Engineering Connection: Why do engineers care about simple machines? How do such devices help engineers improve society? Simple machines are important and common in our world today in the form of everyday devices (crowbars, wheelbarrows, highway ramps, etc.) that individuals, and especially engineers, use on a daily basis. The same physical principles and mechanical advantages of simple machines used by ancient engineers to build pyramids are employed by today's engineers to construct modern structures such as houses, bridges, and skyscrapers. Simple machines give engineers added tools for solving everyday challenges.

Learning Targets: 
Understand what a simple machine is and how it would help an engineer to build something
Identify six types of simple machines.
Understand how the same physical principles used by engineers today to build skyscrapers were employed in ancient times by engineers to build pyramids.
Generate and compare multiple possible solutions to creating a simple lever machine based on how well each met the constraints of the challenge.
Content Area: 
Resource Type: 
Creative Commons Licence
Next Generation and Michigan Science