Museum of Science and Industry

Simple Machines


Investigate how simple machines work using large-scale examples, then test your knowledge to complete a challenge.

Simple Machines Lab Goals

  • Students will recognize the six simple machines: wheel and axle, lever, pulley, inclined plane, wedge and screw.
  • Students will identify how distance affects force used in each simple machine.
  • Students will understand a connection between ideas explored and simple machines in the real world.
  • Students will be actively engaged in hands-on science investigation.
  • Students will share Learning Lab-generated thoughts/ideas/questions with peers and program facilitators.
  • Students will develop questions about simple machines and how they work.
  • Students will make inferences from hands-on experiments with simple machines.

Key Concepts

Review with your students before your visit. Students should be familiar with basic lab techniques such as using a microscope and following written lab procedures.

Work = Distance X Force

Using force to move an object over a distance.

Length between two points.

A push or pull that causes an object to move.

A bar used for raising or moving weights centered on a fulcrum (turning point).

Wheel and axle
A moveable simple machine (wheel) centered on a fixed point (axle).

Inclined plane
A flat surface with one edge raised higher than the other.

A simple machine with one or more grooved wheels connected by a rope.

A specialized inclined plane used to raise and lower objects as well as hold objects together.

An inclined plane that is thick at one end and tapers to a point at the other end, often used to separate objects.


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