IED Unit 11
Simple Machines
Simple Machines Introduction
Welcome to Unit 11

Engineering is often defined as “Using math and science to solve problems and make the world a better place”.  Part of the math and science we need to understand involves some basic physics. We’ll start with the 6 Simple Machines:

  • Lever, wedge, screw, pulley, inclined plane, wheel and axle

For this unit, we’ll start by looking through some information about each of the 6 simple machines and taking some notes.  We’ll find simple machines around the room, and then identify some complex machines. We’ll look at some standard engineering machines as well as the complex machines in our lab.  Finally, we’ll tackle the Rube Goldberg Design Challenge!

  1. STEP 1: Learn about simple machines and complete a scavenger hunt
  2. STEP 2: Learn about complex machines and identify key components
  3. STEP 3: Complete the Rube Goldberg Design Challenge using simple machines to make your own complex machine

When you’re done, you will have had the chance to see how different mechanical components come together to make working machines!  Now if you’re thinking carefully you’ll be able to use these same ideas in the construction of your robot.


Part 1: Simple Machines

Simple Machines Overview

As we get started with simple machines, it’s important that we cover both the scientific and the mathematical principles.  To do this, we’ll take some notes from six short videos that summarize both the science and the math behind each machine. Make sure you take careful notes.  Then use those notes to complete a written math assignment. When that’s finished, complete a Simple Machines Brainstorm.


 Take notes on the 6 simple machines videos 

 Complete the math assignment called “Simple Machines” – this could be homework if you want

 Complete the Simple Machines Brainstorm

 Have Mr. Benshoof confirm your complete assignments.


Wheels & Axles

Inclined Plane


Part 2: Complex Machines

Complex Machines Overview

 Download the Part 2 Rubric Only

 Complex Machines Assignment

There are many ways to combine simple machines into more complex systems.  Mechanical engineers in particular work with complex machines regularly. In this unit, you’ll investigate how simple machines combine to make 3 important complex machines function: gears, claws, and 4-bar linkages.  Then, you’ll identify one of our complex machines in the Makerspace, make a sketch, and identify the simple machines.


 Take notes in your engineering notebook on the videos of the three complex machines.

 Complete the assignment “Complex Machines”.

 Carefully sketch your chosen machine in the Makerspace and label all the simple machines you can find in it.

 Have Mr. Benshoof check-off your assignments.

Four-Bar Linkage

Tree Relocation Machine

Gears in Transmissions

Part 3: Rube Goldberg Challenge

Rube Goldberg Overview

One of the most famous groups of complex machines are called “Rube Goldberg Machines”.  Created by an inventor and cartoonist named Rube Goldberg, these machines are designed to accomplish very simple task in a very complicated way.  Your job is to work with your team to create a Rube Goldberg machine that can keep a marble in motion for exactly 11 seconds. You must use (and identify) at least three simple machines in your construction.


 Brainstorm, plan, and sketch the plans for a Rube Goldberg machine with your team.

 Build your Rube Goldberg machine following the design brief.

 Have Mr. Benshoof confirm your machine’s success rate out of 5 runs.

Marble Raceway 1

Marble Raceway 2

Rube Goldberg