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Basic Concepts

Simple Machines


Activities for Students

Activities for Teachers

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Activities for Students

Below are sites to visit and activities to explore that will lead you and your friends on a journey of discovery about simple machines and their uses. You'll be amazed where simple machines pop up. Have fun in your adventure.

The Inventor's Workshop
from the Exploring Leonardo Exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science From this starting point learn about Leonardo's envisioning of many modern machines in Visions of the Future. Then explore the elements from which machines are constructed in the Inverntor's Toolbox. This page includes diagrams and descriptions of many simple machines and combinations of simple machines that are applied in Leonardo's inventions and modern devices. When you've learned about the components of more complicated devices go to the section on Gadget Anatomy to test your understanding.
Dirtmeister's Simple Machines
Explore with Scholastic.Com's Dirtmeister the world around you in search of simple machines and how they're used to make life easier.
BrainPOP.com's Simple Machines
See the animations and do the acitvities at BrainPop.com's investigation of levers and inclined planes.

The next few links explore how simple machines are incorporated in the human body. One is an activity you can do; the others report on a research project at the University of Washington:

Modeling the Human Forearm
Use sticks and rubber bands to make a working model of a human arm and learn how our bodies are made from various combinations of simple machines.
The Anthroform Arm Project
This site describes the research of Ching-Ping Chou a scientist at the University of Washington who is building a robotic arm in order to study how human arms work and are controlled. See the galleries of pictures of his research project at the links below:
Pictorial of the Anthroform Arm
These pictures show the parts of this robotic arm and how they're put together.
A Robotic Elbow
These photos show the components of the elbow portion of the Anthroform Arm.

And for a little fun:
How to Avoid Injury when Slipping on Icy Pavements
Simple Machines WebQuest
Follow this Internet WebQuest to learn about simple machines and invent a Rube Goldberg device made from them. This is a really neat project in which you and your team of investigators can learn about Rube Goldberg and his cartoon inventions as well as topics about simple machines.
A Robots WebQuest
Here's a WebQuest that will lead you to learn about those applications of simple machines used in creating the most complex machines of all: Robots!
Maillardet's Automaton
in the Franklin Institute Collection. Speaking of robots, this page introduces the history of mechanical people created during the 1700's and 1800's. It links to additonal descriptions of the mechanics and inner workings of this early "robot."

Last updated Friday, March 15, 2002
© 2002 All rights reserved   Tom Stork
Background adapted from "Design for a flying machine," a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci