Sampling simple machines

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Make no mistake about it, if you’re a third grade student in Lori Garrow’s class at Morenci Elementary School, you’re going to learn about simple machines.

This year brought a bonus, however.

After lunch Monday, students turned their attention to a television screen at the front of the room, ready to spend an hour with Professor Gadgeteer from COSI.

The professor’s topic? What else but simple machines.page.burgess

By linking up for a video conference, students watched the professor in action from her lab in Columbus, Ohio, while she, in turn, saw the students via a camera mounted on a classroom TV.

Students prepped for the presentation by working through a couple of lab sheets involving the Happy Crab.

The Happy Crab is a small red windup toy, a crab with a happy face that dances when set loose on a table top.

It’s not just a toy, Prof. Gadgeteer pointed out. It’s a gadget—something incorporating at least a pair of simple machines.

Students studied the crab’s movements, thought about how it was able to move and took guesses about what was inside.

They also performed a series of tests in preparation for the long-distance learning day. Predictions were made about the number of wind-up turns and the resulting time in motion. Comparisons were made between the crab’s motion on the table and its motion while holding it off the table.

Prof. Gadgeteer wanted to know what the students thought was inside the crab, then she led them through a review of simple machines.

“How many of you guys jump on your bed?” she asked, leading into a discussion about springs.

A screw is a cylinder with an inclined plane, she said.

“If you look under your chair, you’ll see a lot of screws holding it together.”

Everyone suddenly disappeared as they bent down to take a look.

Pulleys, wedges, wheels and axle, levers, gears, eccentric wheels—there are many simple machines that help people with everyday tasks.

It was time for some reverse engineering, Prof. Gadgeteer said. Rather than designing a gadget, the students would tear one apart to find out what makes it tick—or in this case, how it dances and waves its arms.

The class was divided into four groups with tasks assigned to each members. The Project Leaders went to Mrs. Garrow’s desk to obtain a Happy Crab. Each Structural Engineer loosened a screw and handed parts to a Materials Handler.

Students eventually got to the guts of the gadget and the simple machines were identified. The professor mentioned that Mrs. Garrow could help them put the gadgets back together later—that caused some raised eyebrows from the teacher—because it was time to move on to the Chattering Teeth.

This was another wind-up gadget students were called on to guess what made it worked. Then it was time to tear it apart.

The toy contained an impressive collection of simple machines—six in all. Once they were recorded, reassembly was needed.

Alex Thomas and Sierra ••• had their teeth chattering in no time with for a successful completion of the project.

The hour was up and it was time for the professor to leave. She showed off her Bell Bopper, a not-so-simple set of simple machines used to turn off her alarm clock, and then the show was over.

    -February 14, 2007 

 

  • Front.bridge Cross
    STEP BY STEP—Wyatt Stevens of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge Sunday during the Michigan DNR’s Great Outdoors Jamboree at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The Tecumseh Boy Scout Troop constructed the bridge again this year after taking a break in 2016. The Jamboree offered a variety of activities for a wide range of age groups. Morenci’s Stair District Library set up activities again this year and had visits with dozens of kids. See the back page for additional photos.
  • Front.bridge.17
    LEADING THE WAY—The Morenci Area High School marching band led the way across the pedestrian bridge on Morenci’s south side for the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. The Band Boosters shared profits from the sale of T-shirts with the walk’s sponsor, the Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.eclipse
    LOOKING UP—More than 200 people showed up at Stair District Library Monday afternoon to view the big celestial event with free glasses provided by a grant from the Space Science Institute. The library offered craft activities from noon to 1 p.m., refreshments including Cosmic Cake from Zingerman’s Bakehouse and a live viewing of the eclipse from NASA on a large screen. As the sky darkened slightly, more and more people moved outside to the sidewalk to take a look at the shrinking sun. If you missed it, hang on for the next total eclipse in 2024 as the path comes even closer to this area.
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  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Front.batter

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