Six Simple Machines and a Flat Tire

Six Simple Machines and a Flat Tire

While changing a flat tire on my car, as the jack was lifting the car, it seemed to me that there was science at work here. My husband explained that the jack was basically a screw, one of the six simple machines he remembers learning about. Not having a clue to what he was talking about, I did my Google homework and learned quite a bit.

Basically, there are six simple machines that help us push or pull items - they decrease the amount of work it takes to move objects over distances. For many years, these simple machines were seen as the elementary "building blocks" of which even more complicated machines were made.

My STEM Toys - Six Simple Machines and a Flat TireThe six simple machines, as first defined way back in the Renaissance, are:

  • Lever
  • Wheel and axle
  • Pulley
  • Inclined plane
  • Wedge
  • Screw

Why is it important to know and understand these simple machines? It is important because simple machines are in many devices that we use daily - such as highway ramps, wheelbarrows, crowbars, etc. For engineers, they are tools that help them solve everyday challenges.

There are some STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) toys that are specifically designed to teach kids about these simple machines - how they work and what are the scientific principles behind them.


A lever is a stiff bar that rests on a pivot (also called a fulcrum) which lifts or moves loads.

Engino Mechanics Discovering STEM Levers & Linkages

This is a fun product that teaches how levers can be used for increasing applied force to lift or change the direction of motion of an object. The kit includes a 14-page manual loaded with theories and facts with a 4-page quiz. There are 7 pages of experimental activities and includes enough parts to build 16 different working models using the theory of leveraging.

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K'NEX Education Intro to Simple Machines: Levers and Pulleys Set

This educational system comes with a guide that allows for hands-on, inquiry-based exploration by the student. This allows children to see real-world examples of how levers and pulleys help make work easier and are used in a variety of ways.

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A wheel with a rod, called an axle, through its center lifts or moves loads.

Engino Mechanical Science: Wheels & Axles Construction Kit

Young engineers and scientists will enjoy the Engino set introducing them to the importance of the invention of a wheel. They can actually build five models including a tractor, motorcycle, door, car and car lift. It offers children to be creative with their own designs and experiments.

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K’NEX Education Intro to Simple Machines: Wheels, Axles, & Inclined Planes Set

Enrich your child’s learning experience by introducing him to wheels, axles and inclined planes all in one kit designed to introduce him to basic scientific concepts. This fun and educational kit can help him build, investigate and evaluate scientific principals in action.

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A pulley is a simple machine that uses grooved wheels and a rope to raise, lower or move a load.

My STEM Toys - K'NEX Education STEM EXPLORATIONS: Levers & PULLEYS Building Set Building Kit

K'NEX Education STEM EXPLORATIONS: Levers & Pulleys Building Set

Introduce your child to STEM concepts while building items that require pulleys and levers like a wheelbarrow, sailboat or a balance. This set has a booklet that guides children through three hands-on models teaching them about pulleys, resistance, effort and mechanical advantages.

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An inclined plane is a slanting surface connecting a lower level to a higher level.

Engino Mechanical Science Inclined Planes Construction Kit

This set introduces young engineers and physicists to the use of inclined planes in moving heavy objects and how they are used in our everyday life. Five different models can be built including a splitting wedge, an automatic ramp with a car, a mobile airplane stair, and a vehicle with crane.

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A screw is an inclined plane wrapped around a pole which holds things together or lifts materials.

Engino Mechanical Science Screws Construction Kit

This educational STEM building kit has easy to handle colorful pieces which combines the use of wood and plastic. The kit has enough parts to build three different models with over 162 parts. Your young engineer can build structures or machines. This kit will introduce them to how worm gears are used to lower rotational speed and how screws can convert circular to linear motion.

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Larger Simple Machine Sets

If you are interested in a bigger set, with several simple machines in one box, check out the following:

Learning Resources Simple Machines - Set of 5

For those students looking for more of a challenge here is the kit to give them that. There are enough pieces to build a lever, pulley, inclined plane, wheel, axle and wedge all at the same time. This kit is an inspiration for future scientists, physicists or engineers.

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Engino Simple Machines Construction Set

Engino Simple Machines is an all in one package that combines eight basic sets. There are enough pieces to build up to 60 working models complete with instructions and 318 parts to assemble. If your child is six years or older why not get him started today?

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Learning Resources Stem Simple Machines Activity Set

If you have a preschooler at home it is never too early to begin teaching them. This is why Learning Resources has developed this STEM activity set that provides a kit for hands-on learning. For the preschooler, the Learning Resources Simple Machine activity provides a hands-on way to explore six simple machines and how they make lives easier.

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  • Irit Sherman
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