Simple Machines

3.0 based on 30 ratings

Updated on Mar 15, 2013


Mechanical Engineering

Grade Level

4 & up





Safety Issues


Material Availability

All materials readily available.

Project Time Frame

4-6 weeks


This project examines the mechanisms known as the Six Simple Machines.

The goals of this project are:

  • To conduct leverage experiments.
  • To discover the ways in which leverage is useful.

Materials and Equipment

  • Computer with Internet access
  • Color printer
  • Digital camera
  • Typical office/hobby/hardware/craft supplies (paper, poster board, wood, glue, etc.)

All materials can be found in your home, at local stores, or on ebay.


A machine is any device that helps you get work done more quickly or more easily by increasing the force. The devices known to science as “the six simple machines” are so-called because each uses a single, basic force to set a weight in motion. They are the Inclined Plane, the Lever, the Pulley, the Screw, the Wedge, and the Wheel & Axle. All machines, no matter how complex, are designed with a combination of two or more of these mechanical advantages. A bike, for instance, uses wheels, levers and pulleys. In this project we will build homemade models of each of these six simple machines, and demonstrate their uses.

Research Questions

  1. What is a simple machine?
  2. What are some real-world examples of each simple machine?
  3. Where does the extra force come from?
  4. Are there any other simple machines besides those six?

Terms and Concepts to Start Background Research

  • Archimedes
  • Energy
  • Force
  • Leverage
  • Work

Experimental Procedure

  • Read overview of relevant topics (see bibliography below and terms listed above)
  • Address all of the above terms and research questions.
  • Search and print out interesting images that depict simple machines in action.
  • Take photographs throughout the course of the experiment.
  • Build or obtain one physical example of each simple machine.
  • Choose a more complex machine, and describe exactly how it is composed of a series of simple machines. Illustrate your points with diagrams.
  • Design your own unique toy that combines the forces of two or more simple machines.
  • Interpret your findings in a detailed report.

Include interesting photos, diagrams, and models in your science fair display.


  1. (The 3 classes of levers)
  2. (About the Lever)
  3. (About the six simple machines)
  4. Internet searches of your choosing. Search any of the words or terms listed here, or make up your own phrases to search. Click on any results you find interesting. Have fun surfing the net!
Judee Shipman is a Bay Area Educational Consultant and professional writer of quality educational materials. Her recent writing credits include (a popular and entertaining website about states), and a book called The Portable Chess Coach (Cardoza, 2006), currently available in stores.

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