Name of Unit Simple Machines – Marc and Daniela
Author(s) Marc Bucchieri, Daniela Torres
School Vinson Owen
Teacher Elaine Bowler
Brief Description This curriculum has an introduction to all of the simple machines. The weeks are divided up by spending one lesson on levers, gears, pulleys, wheel and axles and finally inclined planes.  This is all done to work up to a classroom Rube Goldberg machine.  The students are reminded each week about the Engineering Design Process so that they learn to work in groups effectively.
Grade(s) 4, 5, 6, 7
Keywords Vinson Owen, Bowler, Fall 2013, Rube Goldberg, Simple Machines, pulley, lever, wheel and axle, catapult, gear, inclined plane, snail race, LEGO, found materials
Number of Weeks 9
Week 1 Intro to the seven simple machines. Students get to see examples of each simple machine, talk about real world uses of each, and try building their own. Activity page located here.
Week 2 This lesson focuses on building cotton ball catapults through the use of levers.  We also spent some time at the beginning of class discussing the engineering design process which can be found here.  The lesson was tested in a 45 minute period and can be found here.
Some changes from original lesson:

  • Photocopy worksheet wasn’t used however we did have the students brainstorm and draw ideas for a prototype.
  • We did not have a limitation on the size of the catapult.
Week 3 Pulleys and gear lesson. Students first construct a pulley system using found materials with the goal of lifting a load onto the table using the NXT motor. For quicker groups, give them the second challenge of gearing down the motor to lift as heavy a weight as possible. The activity we used is located here.
Week 4 Inclined plane lesson: have students build 2-3 inclined planes to allow ball to travel along a space. If there’s a lot of extra time have them start building cars for next week’s lesson.  Activity page for this lesson can be found here.
Week 5 Wheel and axle lesson. Students build a vehicle using NXT and found materials that includes a wheel and axle and has to be able to hold a ball. To discourage everyone from using a basic car design, their designs cannot have exactly four wheels. Activity page for both weeks located here.
Week 6 Wheel and axle continued. Students connect the NXT brick to their vehicles from last week and use on brick programming to make the vehicle move a ball across their workspace. Activity page for both weeks located here.
Week 7 The last three lessons students will work on the final project of constructing a classroom-wide Rube Golderg machine. Each group of 3 to 4 students has to use at least two simple machines to get a NXT ball across a set area of the room. (Probably 3-5 ft. per group). Start with an explanation and some video examples of Rube Goldberg machines, then give them most of the three lessons to plan and work in groups. Lesson plan can be found here.
Week 8 (Continuation of Rube Goldberg Machine Final Project)
Week 9 (Continuation of Rube Goldberg Machine Final Project)

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