Duration 1h 15min

Levers, pulleys, gears and cams are all examples of simple machines that can be used to make work easier. In this engaging, fun and very hands-on workshop students will investigate different types of simple machine. Activities include lifting a teacher with one finger, launching a helicopter and getting the attention of their servant! The workshop culminates in a challenge task where teams construct and use a model catapult.





Key Words

Invention. Machines. Levers. Pulleys. Cams. Gears. Forces. Mechanics. Effort. Load. Pivot. Fulcrum. Mechanical Advantage Design.

Learning objectives

  • Recognise how simple machines can be used to make work easier.
  • Appreciate that levers, pulleys, gears and cams can transform forces.
  • Understand that complex machines are comprised of simple machines working together.
  • Understand the basic scientific principles behind the functioning of each machine type.
  • Experience first-hand the advantages gained by using simple machines.
  • Investigate the structure and functioning of a catapult.

Content. Students will:

  • Learn about different types of ‘simple machines’ and the scientific principles they employ.
  • Gain direct, hands-on experience of levers, pulleys, gears and cams.
  • Have the opportunity to volunteer to take part in entertaining role-play activities that illustrate the functioning and benefits of different machines.
  • Work in small teams to investigate a range of activities, including using levers and pulleys to lift heavy loads and change the direction of a force as well as using gearing to launch a helicopter.
  • In teams, assemble, optimise and deploy a model catapult to launch an object towards a target.

Curriculum Links


  • Analysis and evaluation
  • Apply mathematical concepts and calculate results
  • Energy changes and transfers
  • Simple machines give bigger force but at the expense of smaller movement (and vice versa):
  • product of force and displacement unchanged.
  • Forces
  • Forces as pushes and pulls, arising from an interaction between two objects

Design and Technology

  • Understand how more advanced mechanical systems used in their products enable changes in movement and force.

Potential Hazards

  • Flying objects and heavy weights, all used under supervision and with careful instruction.

Planning your visit

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