Third Quarter Juniors Create Simple Machine Toys

posted Apr 17, 2010, 9:26 PM by Karl Wendt

The purpose of the Simple Machine Toy project is to get juniors interested in engineering and critical thinking through a hands on projects that relate directly to the core curriculum. They had to design a toy and take it from an idea sketch on paper to a working final product that had one input (i.e. a crank or a wheel) and 4 interconnected outputs (things that move in different ways). They also had to use unique mechanisms for each output.

The juniors learned the following: how to use tools safely, engineering design communication, the purpose and function of cams, gears, levers, pulleys and a variety of mechanisms as, how to calculate mechanical advantage, gear and pulley ratios, create complex linkages, calculate torque, how to utilize friction to improve the toy's functions, and much more.

Madison and Shanna's Toy Wagon

A Project Reflection by Madison Mcgahey
I had a few hurdles, mainly they were simple things like figuring out exactly where to place certain things in order to make certain mechanisms work. I think the biggest hurdle that I had to overcome was when I was trying to cut out the gears for my mechanism. Even when I cut the gears as precisely as possible, after three or four rotations they would start to jam up again. I ended up taking the project home with me over the weekend and created multiple sets of gears until I came up with three that worked. Even at that point I had to do a lot of sanding and filing in order to make them work correctly but now they work perfectly.

I already had a bit of previous experience with tools, so I knew how to operate a hand held drill, the sander and some saws, but what I really learned about tools was that you have to keep them clean. I never thought that cleanliness could be so important when using power tools, but it wasn't until I entered this class that I realized just how important keeping the tool clean was. If a piece of wood was in the way when using a saw, then your whole piece could skip and what you had just been working on could be ruined. Dust can get in your eyes and block your vision, nails could be laying around in dangerous places, and the key to the drill press would often go mysteriously missing. So more than anything I learned that you have to keep your tools clean.

I learned that the communication, (especially in engineering) is critical. My partner and I have done several projects together in the past which all turned out extremely successful. But this project was slightly different because originally I was the only one that knew how all of the mechanisms in our project were supposed to work, (since I created the original design). We didn't get too much of a chance to talk over the design before the project began, so because of that I felt like my partner was left in the dark as to what we were doing. As the project progressed I was able to explain how things worked and eventually we were able to work on it equally rather than me saying "go cut this". I think that people cannot work as a team if there is no communication. Without communication, at least one person in the team/partnership will not know what is going on in the project, which makes things incredibly unproductive.

I think that if I were to remake this toy or make another "draft" of my toy, I would probably want to and more actual mechanisms to it. I am proud of the mechanisms that are on it currently, but I think I would have liked to have used something more than just gears and cams. I would have liked to have added pulleys or levers just to make it that much more interesting. 

I applied my understanding of simple machines to my first design of my project. I wanted to create as many outputs as possible as simply as possible, which is why my original design only had cams on it. I wanted to create a machine that was extremely simple in design but would keep anyone interested for hours. Although, I started learning more and more about simple machines as the project progressed. I was following my original design for the most part until I saw Kurt's machine. When I saw that he created all of his sounds with nothing but gears and sticks, I realized that I couldn't just make a "simple machine". I learned then that simple machine means more than just creating a lot of outputs with barely any mechanisms, but showing how you can create amazing outputs with handmade and "simple" mechanisms. That was when I decided to add gears onto the side of my machine, turn the wheels themselves into cams in order to make the horse go up and down, and make a bell ring as the wagon toy rolled by.

I loved the hands on work and actual building of the toys. I love being hands on and while I love making movies and photo essays, I was extremely happy to hear that I would be able to build something with my own two hands. I really enjoyed watching something that I designed go from being nothing more than a picture on a piece of paper to a solid thing. It's really fulfilling to know that you just created something that wouldn't have existed if you hadn't thought of it. That is why I enjoyed this project so much and why I love engineering.