Hands-on Activity: Solid Rock to Building Block
Educational Standards :
Pre-Req Knowledge (Return to Contents)
General knowledge of pyramids and geometric angles. Familiarity with the six simple machines introduced in Lesson 1 of this unit.
This unit's lesson, Pyramid Building: How to Use a Wedge, does not need to be completed prior to students doing this activity, but the storyline of creating a pyramid created within the lesson helps students understand what they are trying to achieve with this activity.
The pyramid site choosing activity in Simple Machines: Lesson 1, is also not required, but it provides students with a background so they understand what a rock quarry is, and from where they are trying to extract the rock and why.
Learning Objectives (Return to Contents)
After this activity, students should be able to:
Materials List (Return to Contents)
Each group needs:
For the entire class to share:
Introduction/Motivation (Return to Contents)
The wedge is a simple machine that helps make our lives easier. Does anyone know how a wedge helps us do work? (Answer: A wedge allows us to split materials apart much more easily then we could do by hand.) The wedge gives us a mechanical advantage. This means that we have to exert less force to complete the task, but we usually have to go a greater distance. For example, when you use an axe to cut through a log, the job is much easier then if you tried to break the log just with your hands. However, you also have to make many axe cuts to get through the wood. The axe allowed you to cut through the wood easier, but you had to make more cuts to do it.
The wedge is slightly different from other simple machines because when you are using a wedge as a tool, often times another object is required to help. For example, if you were using a nail, which is a very sharp-angled (acute) wedge, a hammer would be required to force the nail into the wood. This is similar to the way we believe ancient pyramid construction was done. The pyramid builders found large rock quarries filled with different types of rock. They had to figure out a way to break the rocks away from the quarry wall into large bricks (stone blocks) that could be used to build the pyramid.
Pyramid builders would likely find a variety of different rock types within the quarry. They had to engineer a wedge that could be used to break away the rock from the quarry wall. If they encountered a soft, clay-like material, pyramid engineers designed a large wedge made of wood which could easily cut through clay-like material and successfully make many bricks. But, when they came across hard marble in their quarry, the wooden wedge would not break the material apart well. The wedge quickly wore down and the engineers knew that they must design a more effective wedge. That's where you come in. Today you are going to be design engineers and help research wedge designs that help the pyramid builders cut through each type of rock they encounter.
Show students an excellent animation at a Polish website about transportation methods that do not use a wheel and axle: http://www.swbochnacki.com/ (click on Site Map, then click on Transport on the Ramp). The animation shows how heavy stone blocks might have been systematically moved up an incline plane (ramp) using many human-powered wedges. The large supply of Egyptians workers would have made this method possible.
Through this activity, you will learn about different types of wedge angles and the different materials from which wedges can be made. You will experiment with a variety of materials so that you will be able to make recommendations to the pyramid engineers about how to best design a wedge. You will also see why it is so important for engineers to understand the design process and material selection when they are working on a project. If you choose the incorrect material for your wedge, the tool will not work well and your project may not be successful.
Vocabulary/Definitions (Return to Contents)
Procedure (Return to Contents)
Before the Activity
With the Students
Attachments (Return to Contents)
Safety Issues (Return to Contents)
Troubleshooting Tips (Return to Contents)
To keep the desks clean and for ease of clean-up, set materials on a tray, paper or cardboard.
Make wedges by sanding the edge of a piece of material such as plastic or wood to create a tapered edge.
Using foam can be useful as an example of a material that does not work well in a wedge application.
Alternate activity setup: If a limited number of supplies are available, each group could work with only one wedge and one material. At the end, each group could share what they learned with the entire class. Alternatively, group sizes of three work fine for this activity.
If the students have a hard time understanding how a wedge works, present a variety of pictures of a wedge in action.
Assessment (Return to Contents)
Know / Want to Know / Learn (KWL) Chart: Before the activity, ask students to write down in the top left corner of a piece of paper (or as a group on the board) under the title, Know, all the things they know about wedges. Next, in the top right corner under the title, Want to Know, ask students to write down anything they want to know about wedges. After the activity, ask students to list in the bottom half of the page under the title, Learned, all of the things that they have learned about wedges.
Activity Embedded Assessment
Material Selection Discussion: After the teacher demonstration, take a few minutes to lead a class discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of each type of wedge material. Write these on the board. This will get the students thinking about material selection before they start their group activity.
Worksheet: Have the students record their test results on The Wedge Worksheet; review their answers to gauge their mastery of the subject.
KWL Chart: Finish the remaining section of the KWL Chart as described in the Pre-Activity Assessment section. After the activity, ask students to list in the bottom half of the page under the title, Learned, all of the things that they have learned about wedges. Ask students to name a few items and list them.
Engineering Recommendations: List two or three rock types on the board while the students are finishing the activity and the worksheet questions. Have the students discuss within their groups recommendations for a wedge design to cut through each of the rocks listed. They should suggest what material the wedge should be made from, and how sharp the wedge needs to be.
Class Discussion: Have the students participate in a concluding class discussion about their group test results and answers to the worksheet questions. Which wedge/rock combinations worked? Which did not? Why? How are the wedge angles and points different from each other? Which wedge had the sharpest angle? Which had the biggest cutting surface? How does this make a difference? Why do you think engineers design different types of wedges? Why is material selection an important engineering job?
Activity Extensions (Return to Contents)
Compile the class worksheet data on the board to provide some nice extension possibilities, discussion, math exercises (averages), graphing, etc. Discuss success in terms of the choice of material or wedge.
Have students explore material properties and material use. Engage the class in a discussion on how the pyramid stones had been shaped and what materials were used (metals, harder stones, etc).
Have the students design their own wedge to serve a specific purpose. For example, ask them to design a wedge that moves snow or splits air (such as an airplane wing). This wedge does not have to be sharp because air is not "hard." How is a zipper considered a wedge?
If possible, take a field trip to a local quarry to see how wedges are used and help students better understand the scale of materials that are extracted from a rock quarry.
Activity Scaling (Return to Contents)
References (Return to Contents)
Bochnacki, Andrzeh. 2005. O Piramidach Inaczeh. Andrzej Bochnacki (Polish engineer). Accessed January 18, 2006. (An excellent animation shows how heavy stone blocks might have been systematically moved up an incline plane using many human-powered wedges. Click on Site Map, then click on Transport on the Ramp.) http://www.swbochnacki.com/
Construction of the Great Pyramid, Construction Theories. World-Mysteries.com. Accessed January 18, 2006. http://www.world-mysteries.com/mpl_2_1.htm#Machines
Nature & Science: Geologic Resources, Abandoned Mineral Land: Nature & Science. Updated October 19, 2003. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. January 18, 2006. http://www2.nature.nps.gov/geology/aml/
ContributorsLindsey Wright, Lawrence E. Carlson, Jacquelyn Sullivan, Malinda Schaefer Zarske, Denise Carlson, with design input from the students in the spring 2005 K-12 Engineering Outreach Corps course.
Copyright© 2005 by Regents of the University of Colorado
This digital library content was developed by the Integrated Teaching and Learning Program through the GEEN 4100 K-12 Engineering Outreach Corps technical elective.
Supporting Program (Return to Contents)Integrated Teaching and Learning Program, College of Engineering, University of Colorado at Boulder
Last Modified: March 7, 2014