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Simple Machines: Mechanical Engineering


Simple machines exist to make tasks that we perform everyday easier to do. There are six simple machines- lever, wheel and axle, inclined plane, wedge, pulley, and screw. Simple machines are everywhere from the playground slide to the lid on a jar of peanut butter. These resources and activities let you dig deeper into the world of simple machines. 


Preschool activity: 

  • Painting with Wheels

    • You will need: paper, foam rollers, toy cars, paint, paper plates, a ramp, a drop cloth or a shower curtain. How it works: put small amounts of paint on paper plates. Encourage your child to try painting with rollers and talk about how the roller uses a wheel. Tape some paper on a ramp and ask your child to dip the wheels of the toy vehicles in paint, and roll them down the ramp to create a work of art! 
    • Simple Machines Printable PDF  

Elementary Activity: 

  • Simple Machine Walk 

    • With your child, read one of the books or explore one of the websites about simple machines. Then, take a walk around your neighborhood and bring a notebook or camera! As you walk, have your child identify different simple machines or observe machines or tools that use different simple machines. Encourage your child to take pictures of these examples or draw a picture to make a catalog. Which simple machine is most commonly used? When you return home, look around for any simple machines you and your child use in the house. Could you live without them? How would you manage?  

Middle School activity:

  • Make a Catapult 

    • Follow the directions on this webpage and make your own catapult. Launch ping pong balls or marshmallows!  

Books and Resources:


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