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Rube Goldberg machine

Complex (or compound) machines combine one or more simple machines together. The result combines properties and functions of the component simple machines and usually provides additional functionality to what the component simple machines can provide.

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Compound Machine : Two or more simple machines working together to make work easier.

Stapler – lever, wedgeCan opener – lever, gears, wheel and axle, wedgeWheelbarrow – wheel and axle, lever, inclined planeHand drill – wheel and axle, gear, screw, leverBicycle

Sample examples of complex machinesRube Goldberg was famous for combining dozens of simple machines into very complex machines that preformed some very simple tasks. Today, any machine that is more complicated than necessary is often described as a “Rube Goldberg Machine” after this designer and engineer.


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Grasshopper escapement
Combining simple machines

Complex machines have advantages over simple machines. They often are provide a better solution than just a simple machine alone. These questions step through the Engineering Design Process.

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An escalator is a moving inclined plane. A roller coaster is many steep inclined planes with lots of wheels, pulleys and gears to keep the cars moving. How can a machine move people up a hill?Stapler, can opener, wheelbarrow, hand drill, bicycle – all are complex machines. They are made by combining the simple machines. Which simple machines can do some of the work?Joining simple machines into complex machines requires planning. Originally, bicycle pedals were connected directly to the wheels. On modern bicycles, the pedals are not connected directly to the wheels.: How can simple machines be combined? How can the work transition from one simple machine to the next?
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3D printed limited edition jewellery
Some times less is better. Some machines are improved by making something less complex. Modern material are stronger, lighter and easier to make into complex shapes. What are some examples of simple machines that are replacing older more complex machines?

That’s engineering

dynamicsmechanical advantage

Engineering ideas

Levers , Pulleys , Wheel , Ramps, Inclined Planes , Wedge , Screws, friction, efficiency, compound machines

Do itHere are some challenges for you to work on…

design a complex machine to do a task for your home that includes at least 3 simple machines. Check out Rube Goldberg site for more info.show each simple machine being used and how it makes the work easierdesign a home or office building that provides handicap access using at least 2 simple machines, why, and how the make life easier.evaluate 3 inventions in history that used simple machines. Find information on the inventoruse paper, popsicle sticks, glue and marbles to create a miniature roller coaster using math and science, how a roller coaster works.

Design and conduct an experiment to test these questions

Is a weight easier to move when the force arm is longer, shorter, or the same length as the weight arm?What type of screw or nail holds better?What angled ramp will make it easier to pull the book?What type of lever works best to lift an object?

Learn more…

– prototypes, custom limited-quantity manufacturing, impossible machines – naturally occurring engineering solutions

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