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Simple Machines
Lab 3 - Wheel & Axle

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Launch the Engage Section

ACTS is what the teacher will do and ASKS is how the teacher will facilitate.

  1. Make a personal connection to wheels. Guide students to identify how wheels help us move objects, and the axle is what holds the wheel in place and allows it to move.
  2. Introduce the Spring Car build, and point out the wheel and axle as a Simple Machine. Define Simple Machine - A device that can change the direction or strength of force, and is used to make work easier.
  3. Define Work - A task that requires effort to complete: such as moving an object (like the car) from one place to another.
  4. Demonstrate the forward motion of the Spring Car by placing the car against a wall or hard surface, then pushing and releasing the car. Remove the rubber band and demonstrate it again. Define Force - A push or pull that causes change in speed, direction or shape of an object.
  1. Who has ever ridden a bike? What makes the bike move? What happens if it gets a flat tire? 
  2. What would happen if we removed the wheel and axle? How would the car move without this simple machine?
  3. What do we mean when we say work?
  4. Where does the force come from in the Spring Car?

Getting the Students Ready to Build

What will happen if we remove the wheels?

In science, we plan and carry out investigations to answer questions or test solutions to problems. We are going to build a Spring Car to see how simple machines, like the wheel and axle, make work easier.

Facilitate the Build

  1. InstructInstruct students to join their team, and have them complete the Robotics Roles & Routines sheet. Use the Suggested Role Responsibilities slide in the Lab Image Slideshow as a guide for students to complete this sheet.
  2. DistributeDistribute build instructions to each team. Journalists should gather the materials on the checklist.
  3. FacilitateFacilitate building process.
    Wheel and Axle
    Spring Car with Wheel and Axle
    • Builders can begin building. If there are multiple builders, they should alternate steps to complete the build.
    • Journalists should assist with build instructions as needed and document all Lab results.
    • Remind students that they are removing the wheel and axle for the first experiment. They should build the entire Spring Car first and then remove the wheel and axle. They will add the wheel and axle back to the build in the second round of test trials. Also, remind students to place the Spring Car against a wall or hard surface for the trials.
      Spring Car without Wheel and Axle
      Spring Car without Wheel and Axle
    • Model for students how to take off the wheels and axle. Note: the Green Pulleys will also need to be removed. The Green Pulleys will act as wheels and propel the Spring Car in this lab if they are not taken off. For more information on wheels and pulleys, see the Pieces of the VEX GO Kit Knowledge Base article.
    Video file
  4. OfferOffer suggestions and note positive team building and problem solving strategies as teams build together
A VEX GO character

Teacher Troubleshooting

Facilitation Strategies

  • Encourage students to use descriptive, spatial language when talking about how to assemble the build. Model this for students whenever possible: “Are you saying that the blue beam sits inside the two white beams?”
  • Scaffold the build process while students are building by holding up examples of student “builds in progress,” calling attention to proper orientation of the parts of the car.
  • Clarify with the students that “wheel and axle” is the name of the simple machine that they are testing.  It refers to both wheels attached to the axle in the Spring Car build. 
  • If time allows, see which group's car can travel the farthest distance now that the wheels are attached.