Eighth grade students – who are studying energy, motion and forces as part of an Introduction to Physics unit in Jean Windels’ and Jennifer Zopp’s science classes – are building their own original devices that accomplish an everyday, ordinary task in an innovative way.
“Students use simple machines in their everyday lives all of the time without ever realizing it,” Windels said. “This particular task gives them the opportunity to work with their design team to solve problems, attain background knowledge, and learn the strengths and weaknesses of the team as they move on to designing their culminating project.”
During a recent lesson, the students worked in groups to deepen their knowledge of simple machines, which include pulleys, levers, inclined planes, screws, wedges, wheels and axles, and understand how they change the direction and magnitude of forces required to complete a task. First, they researched the six different types of simple machines to see how they are used in everyday life. Then, they tested inclined planes of different lengths to see if they made a difference in the magnitude and direction of force required to lift an object to the top of a pile. They also tested a lever to see if the placement of the fulcrum affected the magnitude of force required to lift an object. In addition, they calculated the mechanical advantage for these machines to see if it correlated with the amount of force required to complete the tasks.
“Practicing with these tasks will give the students some background knowledge and spark some ideas as they begin to design their device for the assignment,” Zopp said.
The students’ final device is required to include three simple machines in the design with calculations of mechanical advantage for each simple machine. Their culminating projects will be displayed at the Innovation Expo on May 21.