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Classroom Spotlight: Fourth Form Science

Fourth Form Studies Simple Machines

With all the construction going on, the timing is perfect to be studying simple machines. In science, we focus on the physics (forces and motion) of the machines and how they make work easier. Work in science, refers to a push or a pull over a distance. The key to understanding simple machines is that work (like energy and matter) is always conserved. The work we put into a machine will always equal the work we get out of it. The trick to simple machines is that they allow us to make trade-offs between forces and the distance we apply them over.

For example, when we use an inclined plane (a ramp) to move an object to a higher level, we are increasing the distance we push or pull the object but using less force. When we use a screwdriver (a wheel and axle), we are turning the handle of the screw driver a larger distance than we are turning the screw. The result is much more torque (rotational force) on the screw. And the grooves running around the screw are another example of an inclined plane. Finally, all of the wheelbarrows we see around the construction sites are levers where the wheels are the fulcrum.

If any of this is confusing to you, ask a Fourth Former to explain it. There are six simple machines and they all make trade-offs between forces and distance. And they are everywhere. If you don’t believe me, come by my office sometime. If the door is closed, just turn the wheel and axle and come on in.

--David Andrukonis