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Simple Machines

Gears on blue background


Let’s pretend you have a task to do -- move a very heavy bag of groceries from the grocery store to your Grandma’s fourth-floor apartment down the street. It might sound easy but what if you had to do it without using a shopping cart? What if there was no elevator and you had to walk up all those stairs? That is exactly what would happen if we didn’t have simple machines. Shopping carts, the ramp outside the store, and the pulleys in the elevator are all simple machines.

A simple machine is an item that changes the direction or intensity of a force. In our challenge above, putting the groceries in a cart with wheels makes them much easier to move. This is because a force called friction is created when dragging the groceries is lowered when you can push them on wheels. Other examples of simple machines are a lever, pulley, inclined plane, wedge, and screw.

Can you think of all the different simple machines that you see day-to-day? Do you see any at the park? What about school? Are there parts of your body that act like pulleys and levers?

Are you interested in having a construction job? What about a demolition job? What about fine-tuning a delicate instrument like a piano?

Simple machines are everywhere around us. At Idea Exchange we have a wide range of STEM-based programming and resources that you can use to explore simple machines and other aspects of engineering and science. We also have a broad collection of books, documentaries on DVD, and other resources to help you learn about these subjects. Check out these great Idea Exchange resources to get thinking about simple machines, how they affect your life every day, and what careers you could explore that use them.

Click on one of the pictures or links below to find our recommended resources:

WedgesInclined Planes (Ramps_Pulleys

Simple Machines
Learn about simple machines, including pulleys, gears, levers, wheels, wedges, and inclines.

Discover how screws keep buildings and structures together.

Learn about how levers work and how they are used everyday.

Wedges & Ramps
Discover how wedges make it easier to split things apart or stop them from moving.

Learn how wheels help us move around.

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