Kids building machines

Simple Machines Project

Students create a working model of a machine to solve a problem, or answer a questions, of their choice. They are required to use the steps in the scientific method in their work. Additionally, they give a classroom demonstration of their project and explain their project board (with scientific method) to the science class.

New York State Academy for Teaching and Learning

Learning Experience Outline

Simple Machines ProjectW.A. Wettel Elementary School
Vernon-Verona-Sherrill Central School District
Margaret E. Powell – Fifth grade instructorPO Box 990, Peterboro Road,
Vernon, New York 13476

1. Learning Context

Math/Science/Technology-Standard 1 – Students will use mathematical analysis, scientific inquiry, and engineering design, as appropriate, to pose questions, seek answers, and develop solutions.

Engineering Design-Section 1 – Engineering design is an iterative process involving modeling and optimization finding the best solution within given restraints which is used to develop technological solutions to problems within given constraints.

Math/Science/Technology – Standard 2 – Information technology is used to retrieve, process, and communicate information and as a tool to enhance learning.

Math/Science/Technology – Standard 5 – Students will apply technological knowledge and skills to design, construct, use, and evaluate products and systems to satisfy human and environmental needs.

Math/Science/Technology – Standard 7 – Students will apply the knowledge and thinking skills of mathematics, science, and technology to address real-life problems and make informed decisions.

English/Language Arts – Standard 1 – Students will read, write, listen, and speak for information and understanding. As listeners and readers, students will collect data, facts, and ideas: discover relationships, concepts, and generalizations: and use knowledge generated from oral, written, and electronically produced texts. As speakers and writers, they will use oral and written language to acquire, interpret, apply, and transmit information.

English/Language Arts – Standard 4 – Learning for Social Interaction-Students will read, write, listen, and speak for social interactions. Students will use oral and written language for effective social communication with a wide variety of people. As readers and listeners, they will use the social communications of other to enrich their understanding of people and their views.

Listening and Speaking-Section 1 – Oral communication in formal and informal settings requires the ability to talk with people of different ages, genders, and cultures, to adapt presentations to different audiences, and to reflect on how talk varies in different situations.

Grade 5 students will culminate their classroom studies of simple machines by developing a machine of their own, capable of accomplishing a simple task. In addition to researching, planning and constructing their machines, students will make an oral presentation to their class as well as participate in a school-wide science fair. Additionally, students will share their projects with the second grade classes.

Students need to be able to:

  • research a topic using a appropriate technology
  • create and modify plans-either self or computer generated
  • follow a set of specifications regarding time constraints
  • generate plans using the program Microsoft Publishing 2.0
  • use the CD “The Way Things Work” for research
  • use the scientific method to solve a problem, answer a question
  • know the uses, and benefits, of the 6 simple machines
  • identify a simple problem they can ‘solve’

2. Procedure

The students have completed classroom study of the simple machines unit. They will now use the knowledge they acquired to create a working model of a machine to solve a problem, or answer a questions, of their choice. They will be required to use the steps in the scientific method in their work. Additionally, they will give a classroom demonstration of their project, as well as explaining their project board (with scientific method) to their science class. They will also be exhibiting their work at a school-wide science fair, and sharing their projects with the second grade students, who also study simple machines.

3. Instructional/Environmental Modifications

Resource Room students may work with their instructor/aide to identify a problem of the appropriate difficulty to solve. Help in understanding, or guidance in the correct use of the scientific method may be given, and students may receive assistance in the creation of their project board. The actual design, and presentation must be student generated. All students may receive adult help/supervision during construction, for safety reasons.

4. Time Required

Students will be given a rubric containing a time-line for completion of the project. A minimum of two weekends should be factored into the time-line to allow students sufficient time to collect materials and construct their machine. This is especially important as adult supervision/assistance may be required, for instance, when using power tools, etc. Students will be allowed classroom time when their instructor may give them input, clarification where needed, etc. Additionally, they will sue some of their scheduled library class time for use of the computer programs/Internet.

Assessment is on going, as they are required to follow a time-line for submission of permission slips, plans, etc. Assessment rubrics are given to the students after their classroom demonstration for immediate feedback. Peer discussion and questioning will also be a part of the presentation. Projects will be evaluated at the science fair.

5. Resources

Students will have their rubric/time-line to guide them as they develop their project. They will be allowed use of the classroom and library computers to aid their research, as well as to create their plans. Classroom teacher will have a model project/display board available as models.

6. Assessment Plan

Math/Science/Technology-Standards 1, 2, 5 & 7

Rubric for simple machine project


Participation in classroom demonstrations

Participation in school science fair

ELA Standard 1 & 4



7. Student Work

8. Reflection

This culminating activity allows the students to apply knowledge and principles learned in science class to a ‘real-world’ situation. Although cracking an egg, or cleaning a fishbowl seems like small challenges to the students, having to approach these problems to use technology to aid them in their research. Additionally, I wanted the students to develop their oral, as well as written, presentation skills. They have the opportunity to modify their presentations to more than one type of audience by presenting to the younger students.

This project is one the students were excited about doing. They were eager to get started, and the first school-wide science fair acted as an incentive. Selection of an appropriate ‘problem’ to solve was assisted through the use of Rube Goldberg cartoons ( and discussion of the children’s game “Mousetrap”, with which they were all familiar.

It was a revelation to some students that, although something may work on paper, reality often is less dependable. Re-doing plans and re-assessing their goals are almost a certainty as they start their construction. Those who researched the most thoroughly tend to get the best results. There was a good amount of on-going peer input.

The students successfully completed this project. Many used their home computers, which freed up classroom resources for others. The materials used could be, and were encouraged to be, re-cycled or used. Costs were kept to a minimum and I tried to have free, or low cost, ways for kids to try.

The students learned to adhere to a set time-line, research using computer programs and the Internet, create and modify plans, gather materials and construct a working model capable of performing the chosen task. They were able to apply classroom learning to a unique situation.

Additionally, they were able to share their thinking and methods with their peers as well as the wider community. Students benefit from any situation where they are actively engaged in their own learning. This project enables them to do that.

Obviously, to do this culminating project successfully, students needed to have a thorough knowledge of how and why we use machines, and how simple machines can be combined in new ways to do new things. Perhaps most importantly, they learned how real ‘scientists’, like themselves, use the steps in the scientific method to help answer questions and solve problems.


Your project is to make a machine that will be capable of doing a simple task. Plans must be handed in to Mrs. Powell by Wednesday, April 14. You will have until Monday, April 26 to have your model ready. You will have to use 2 or more simple machines as part of your project. You should try to use materials that are inexpensive and easy to obtain. The use of recycled materials is encouraged.

Grades will be assigned based on how well you meet this challenge. Grades will be either a 0, 1, 2, 3, or 4. Four is the highest grade you can receive.

To receive a 4:

  • -plan on paper to be in on time
  • -use all 6 simple machines in the model
  • -model handed in on time
  • -model works when demonstrated
  • -originality in design

To receive a 3:

  • -plan on paper to be in on time
  • -use 4-5 simple machines in the model
  • -model works after some slight adjustment
  • -shows some originality of design

To receive a 2:

  • -plan on paper to be in on time
  • -use 2-3 simple machines in the model
  • -model may not work when demonstrated
  • -no evidence of original design

To receive a 1:

  • -plans handed in late or poorly done
  • -uses 2 machines in the model
  • -model may be late or poorly done
  • -faulty design

To receive a 0:

  • -no plans handed in
  • -model late or not done
  • -unworkable
  • -poor design


Think of simple tasks like cracking nuts, inflating balloons, washing dishes, or whatever you’d like to do. Please do not use expensive materials.


Student signature ______________________________________________

Parent signature ______________________________________________


Simple Machine Project Checklist

Permission slip due 4/12 _____

Plans due 4/14 _____

Project board due 4/25 _____

Model due 4/26 _____

Written assessment due 4/30 _____



4-Excellent 3-Good 2-Fair 1-Needs work 0-Poor

  • Preparation _______________________________________________
  • Presentation _______________________________________________
  • Explanation _______________________________________________
  • Voice _______________________________________________
  • Knowledge _______________________________________________
  • Questions ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  • Comments ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

My Simple Machine

First to start off I’ll tell you what I did for my simple machine. I made an egg cracker. One of the difficulties was the pulley. What made this difficult was that it was hard to find the materials. I looked all over for the wood to make it but finally I found what I needed.

I made a few modifications on my simple machine. One was that I put the pulley behind the beam that holds the egg instead of in front of it. I moved the pulley because it would get in the way of the beam. Also, when the beam fell it wouldn’t stay on the inclined plane. So I drilled a hole through the tracks and the beam. Then I put a wire through the holes. The beam would now stay on the tracks but when it wasn’t in motion it would slide on the wire. To fix this I nailed two nails on either side of the beam.

I think my presentation went well. Everything went as planned although the first time the beam kind of stuttered as it fell. Other than that, it went fine.

I had fun making and using my simple machine. I never though of being an engineer when I grow up, but hey…You never know.

My Balloon Popper

I am going to tell you about my school project. It is a balloon popper. I changed my plans a little bit by having only one screw to pop the balloon. Then I decided to have four screws to pop the balloon. That was mostly all. One difficulty that I had was that I didn’t know how big the balloon should have been. Then I put a big balloon in the box and it popped. My presentation was good, I think. I think I might get a three or maybe a four.

My dad had most of the stuff around the garage. My dad helped me on some of it. He told me to put some foam over the screws so no one would get hurt. I thought it was a good idea. We sprayed the box with white spray paint. When I did my presentation, I was nervous. In the project I had all six simple machines.

To make my project it took about two hours or more. My dad thought I did good. The project was not the best, but okay. I’m glad it is in the science fair. My dad helped me a little but I did the rest. It kind of makes me jump when the balloon pops. Well that is just about everything in my project.

Further reading: How to Write a Lesson Plan: 7 Steps