simple machine

Playground slide

A machine is a tool used to make work easier. Simple machines are simple tools used to make work easier. Compound machines or complex machines have two or more simple machines working together to make work easier.

  • Humans are the only living creatures that have been able to put materials together to construct machines to do work. Our capacity to see and invent relationships between effort and work produced through simple machines has led us into a world that is becoming more technologically oriented. Knowledge of these relationships is necessary for understanding all mechanics. –FOSS

Some illustrations

  • Machines and Mechanisms – includes animations of direction of rotation, compound gearing, pulley speed, pulley at an angle.

Simple Machines: A machine with few or no moving parts. Simple machines make work easier.
Simple machines can be used alone. Complex machines use two or more simple machines together.

Simple machines are all around. They are the solution to many every day problems and needs.

Simple machines at work
Playgrounds are a great place to see simple machines in use. Look around and find some simple machines. Think about how someone used a simple machine to solve the problem following the steps in the Engineering Design Process.

  • Ask – Kids need safe places to play outside. Little kids love sliding down hills but there aren’t big hills in towns and cities. The structures must be durable and simple so they won’t break easily. What are some outdoor play structures?
  • Imagine – Things that move are always fun – up and down, side to side, around. What kinds of movement can the play structures have?
  • Plan, Create – Most parks and playground have the same play structures. These basic structures are the ones that meet the requirements. They are easy to build. They are tough and can be used a lot without breaking. They are outside all year so they can withstand bad weather and summer sun. What simple machines provide movement? What materials are durable enough for building play structures? Look at how the play structures are made. Usually they are made in a workshop or factory, then put together in the playground. How are the parts joined together? Is the structure sturdy?
  • Improve – Some play structures last for years and years. Others get broken and need to be fixed. What can be changed to add to the “fun factor”? How could they be designed to be more durable?

That’s Engineering

  • materials
  • joints

Engineering ideas

  • materials, joints, connectors, load

Do it
Here are some challenges for you to work on…

  • Design a new playground structure based on a simple machine.
  • Simple machines – explore the simple and complex machines found in this game
  • Algodoo (game-based learning) – With simple drawing tools, objects like gears, motors, lasers, springs, ropes, and even water, test wacky ideas, build amazing machines
  • Engineer a Space Tool – Design and build tools that astronauts can use to pick up objects when they travel to moons and planets.

Learn more…