Simply the Best - a webquest about Simple Machines

A webquest for 7th and 8th grade science students

Nancy LaPosta-Frazier

Introduction Task Process Evaluation Conclusion Teacher Resources


You have a BIG problem. The company you founded three years ago, Acme Simple Machines®, has not produced a new product since opening its doors and your stockholders are not happy. After all, no sales means no profits. As President and CEO of ASM, it's your duty to do something right now. You need to create a blockbuster product, something that will have consumers lining up in the aisles. You need a product that will make cash registers ring and you need to keep it simple... However, there's just one small problem - you may have been the brawn behind the company but you never were the brains behind the products. You know absolutely nothing about simple machines. So, before you design your ground breaking product, you need to learn something about simple machines.

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There are actually three separate tasks to accomplish in this webquest. First, you must become familiar with the 6 different types of simple machines by studying pre-selected sites on the web. You will be required to answer a series of questions related to the information found on these sites. Next, you and a partner must design and build a machine that accomplishes a specified task. Your completed machine must consist of a minimum of two simple machines. Finally, you are to create an instruction manual complete with operating instructions, illustrations and trouble-shooting information.

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Task One Your teacher will be instructing you to access the Simple Machines Questions page. The first piece of advice is: Don't panic!!. Your teacher will only be selecting a few questions at a time for you to answer. Just be sure to answer your assigned questions neatly and in complete sentences.

Task Two The time has come for you to begin designing and building your product. The device you're making is a simplified version of a Rube Goldberg device. In these types of machines, many individual steps are tied together to accomplish a task. Usually, the effort you expend is many times greater than the benefit you get from the machine. The game "Mousetrap" is a classic example of a Rube Goldberg device. Your machine must complete one of the following tasks:

crush a soda can

wake you up in the morning

feed your pet

pick up paper clips

dispense some candy

break an egg


Task Three

Every product comes with an instruction manual and your machine is no different. You are now tasked with producing an instruction manual that helps a consumer utilize your invention. Your manual must contain the following information:

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Task One:

Teachers may opt for either a classwork grade for correct completion of assigned questions or a quiz grade based on the questions. Check back again for an interactive simple machine practice quiz.

Task Two Rubric:

Novice - Beginning work on Standard Apprentice - Working towards the Standard Proficient - Meets the Standard Advanced - Exceeds the Standard
Task Considerations machine does not complete stated task machine completes task after several adjustments machine completes task after one adjustment machine completes task efficiently
Design Completion gadget does not contain any functional machines gadget contains one working machine gadget contains working machines from both the inclined plane and pulley families gadget contains three or more working machines
Quality of Construction constructed gadget easily falls apart constructed gadget is somewhat delicate; falls apart after use constructed gadget is sturdy constructed gadget is sturdy and displays good construction techniques

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This webquest provides hands-on opportunities for students to display their knowledge and understanding of simple machines. The information acquired from visiting selected websites is put to practical use in the construction of a Rube Goldberg-like device. The instruction manual which students must write will demonstrate that students understand their constructed device.

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