Museum of Science and Industry

Apparently, I'm not. Well, not when it comes to naming the six simple machines.

It was a rough start to "Machines Day" when I realized I was a little rusty on the six simple ones. But thanks to the Simple Machines Learning Lab and a group of smart students, I was given a refresher that prepped me for the rest of the day. In case you're a little out of practice too, here's a reminder: simple machines are tools that make work easier. And I'm sure you already know this, but work = force x distance. Is it all coming back to you? The simple machines are (say it with me): wheel & axle, lever, inclined plane, wedge, screw and pulley. Can't you just taste the PB&J? It's like we're right back in middle school. But if you're like me, it sometimes takes a little jogging of the brain to remind yourself of all the cool stuff you once knew.

One fun activity today was a scavenger hunt to find as many simple machines as possible throughout the museum. Once I started looking, they became more and more obvious. Here are a few of my favorite examples: (see if you can guess them before you scroll past the photo to my caption).


 An amazing example of a wheel and axle in the gift shop. There are 8,600 pieces in this Ferris Wheel (which, of course, was first featured at the Columbian Exposition of 1893).

 The giant tree in the Rotunda is starting to go up with the help of this lift. Do you see a fulcrum? It must be a lever!

It's a rotten day for the driver of this red car in the Great Train Story. But good thing the inclined plane is there to help get his car up onto the truck.

 It's amazing how little incandescent light bulbs have changed since Thomas Edison created these. The screw base is still a very common design.

 If you find something that separates or cuts through something you might be looking at a wedge. Jesse Billauer's surfboard (designed to allow him to surf even after a spinal cord injury) cuts through water with ease.

There are a number of simple machines at work here but I especially like the weight and pulley system of this piece in Science Storms.

How'd you do? Are you all up to speed on your simple machines? If so, or even if you need some more help remembering, check out this adorably fun game on the MSI site*. You'll be back to your fourth grade self in no time.


*I scored 288 in you're up for a challenge. Let me know how you do!

  • Readers' Comments (4)
November 11, 2011

215! Not bad when you consider how fun that game is!

November 12, 2011

I scored 273 and (re)learned some things about simple machines ~ cute game!

Sydney Stokke
November 12, 2011

i got 283!!! yay :)

November 13, 2011

I got 292 on the game! im proud that i got more than you Kevin :D

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kevin byrne

A digital marketing analyst from Chicago, Kevin is living inside the largest science museum in the Western Hemisphere for 30 days.

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