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Getting Started Select Design Task Learn About Design
MOVIE 1:   4 minutes 53 seconds
MTH challenges students to create a device that multiplies a modest force applied through a piece of string and raises a heavy can of food 10cm.
Machines That Help

Machines That Help is a 2-4 week science, math or tech ed activity from the Learning By Design™ curriculum. It asks students to investigate different simple machines and learn how they provide mechanical advantage and multiply forces. Teams use this knowledge to combine various simple machine elements into a device that enables a user to lift a heavy weight with a small force applied through 1 strand of cotton thread.

One trait about designing that MTH emphasizes is that off the shelf systems can be combined in unique ways to produce new products (e.g. clock + radio = clock radio). Students also can use their math skills with this task -- after measuring the distance traveled by the Applied and Output Forces, they can calculate their device's Mechanical Advantage.

  •  Introduce MTH  See ways to present the Machines challenge and initial difficulties students typically have with it.
  •  Lever Demo  Watch an opening science demo that makes the advantages machines provide more real for students.
  •  Early Design Ideas  See an early brainstorming session, discussion, and a pin-up presentation of initial design ideas.
  •  Thread Tests  Watch an experiment where students directly experience the force constraints of the MTH challenge.
  •  Whiteboard MTH  Students catalog the engineering and science ideas they know and don't for how machines work.
  •  Winches & Ramps  Two lessons on these simple machines.
  •  Review Mechanical Advantage  Teaching lesson that addresses the notion of tradeoffs and mechanical advantage.
  •  Designing Your Lessons  Read suggestions for how you can tailor the MTH lessons for your own students.
Materials List (See attached sheet):
  • 1 Large-sized can of food (approx. 3kg)
  • 1 Spool of single-strand cotton thread
  • 2 x 6" 8' or longer board of lumber
  • Roll of duct tape
  • 3 x 35-cm piece of pegboard
  • Box of paper clips
  • Cardboard box, lid or bottom (banana box)
  • Heavy-duty scissors
  • Large plastic straw
  • Wire coat hangers
Documents and Handouts
You can view and print out copies of the Student and Teacher Materials for Machines That Help by clicking on the appropriate icon or title below:
  Teacher Materials (34 pages)
  Student Materials (67 pages)
  Complete Materials List for MTH (2 pages)

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