STEM - Simple machines

STEM - Simple machines

I can utilize simple machines in the solution to a "real world" problem.

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STEM - Simple machines

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Simple machines are used to make work easier to do. This lesson describes the most common simple machines. Then, students are given a problem to solve using their knowledge of simple machines. Students will work in small groups.


NGSS: 3-5-ETS1 Engineering Design
NGSS: 3-5-ETS1-1
NGSS: 3-5-ETS1-2
NGSS: 3-5-ETS1-3

Learning objective

Students will be able to define the uses and types of simple machines and utilize simple machines in the solution to a "real world" problem.


Students will review the different types of simple machines: levers, inclined planes, screws, wedges, wheels, axles, and pulleys.


A design task is presented. Students will need to help Mary get candy that is taped high on her bedroom wall down. They will have three rounds to brainstorm and test their designs with materials gathered beforehand.


To complete the design task, you will need:

- any type of candy individually wrapped (e.g., M&M's, Skittles, Fruit Roll-Ups) 1 per student
- 1 roll of masking tape per team
- 5 large paper clips per team
- 2 rubber bands per team
- 1 roll of strong string per class (you may add a length constraint)
- 1 medium-sized paper cup per team
- 6 full sheets of newspaper per team
- 2 pairs of safety goggles per team
- 1 worksheet per student

Preparation needed

Prior to students arriving, tape to the wall one bag of candy per team. Ideally, there should be two students on each team, but base this number on your students' abilities and needs. The bags should be taped with two pieces of masking tape close to ceiling height. Test to make sure that a moderate pressure will knock it down. If you tape them too lightly, there's no challenge. If you tape them too securely, it's too difficult. Make sure you allow some distance between the bags to avoid crowding. Organize materials per number of teams.


Kick off the task by asking students to look around the room and point to anything unusual they might see. Tell them the candy goes along with a letter you received inviting them to help out a younger student from another class.

Read them the client letter with the project task on Slide 10. Pass out the materials to teams in whatever way you feel comfortable.

Again, review the task: Design and build a simple machine to retrieve the candy that can be presented to the client.

Allow the students 10 minutes to brainstorm several ideas together using the BRAINSTORMING page found on Slide 11, or you may decide to have them brainstorm independently by teams. Students can brainstorm on the worksheet (linked on title slide).

Make sure students DRAW & LABEL each new design before testing it out.

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