Engineering Simple Machines

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Working in small groups, eighth grade students in Jillian Visser’s science classes at R.C. Murphy Junior High School utilized their creativity and engineering skills to complete a Rube Goldberg-style project. 

The project was named after the American cartoonist, sculptor, author, engineer and inventor best known for his popular cartoons depicting complicated gadgets performing simple tasks in indirect, convoluted ways. It incorporated topics explored during the class’s units of study on simple machines and forces and motion. The students worked collaboratively to research, design and present a machine that accomplishes a simple task. The contraptions that the students designed and constructed were required to use all three laws of motion and incorporate three types of simple machines to accomplish one task. 

The groups presented their projects upon completion and conducted demonstrations in class. They discussed what they had learned in the design phase, the strengths of their design and the improvements that could enhance it. Additionally, each group shared which design aspects were responsible for the speed of the different sections.