Pulleys are the basis of the modern machines
we use every day.
Engineers harness the power of pulleys by designing processes and mechanisms that help us achieve difficult tasks.
Thousands of years ago, early engineers used pulleys to help with construction of structures of monumental proportions, such as aqueducts, monuments and even pyramids. Today, we use pulleys to perform a variety of useful everyday tasks like opening window blinds or operating a garage door.
Engineers combine multiple pulleys into a pulley system in order to either redirect the force or reduce the amount of force required to lift an object. A pulley is one of the six simple machines that help make difficult tasks possible by leveraging the engineering phenomenon of mechanical advantage of the design.
A pulley is a system of rope looped over one or more wheels to make it easier to lift heavy objects. Pulling the rope downward creates an upward force on the load.There are three basic systems of pulleys:
Understanding how pulleys work allows modern engineers to design machines like elevators, cranes, bulldozers and more!
The engaging resources from TeachEngineering featured here, by grade band, exemplify pulley curricula.
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- Solid Rock to Building Block Solid Rock to Building Block
Students continue their pyramid building journey, acting as engineers to determine the appropriate wedge tool to best extract rock from a quarry and cut into pyramid blocks. Using sample materials (wax, soap, clay, foam) representing rock types that might be found in a quarry, they test a variety of...
- Powerful Pulleys Powerful Pulleys
Students learn how a pulley can be used to change the direction of applied forces and move/lift extremely heavy objects, and the powerful mechanical advantages of using a multiple-pulley system. Students perform a simple demonstration to see the mechanical advantage of using a pulley, and they ident...
- Pulley'ing Your Own Weight Pulley'ing Your Own Weight
Using common materials (spools, string, soap), students learn how a pulley can be used to easily change the direction of a force, making the moving of large objects easier. They see the difference between fixed and movable pulleys, and the mechanical advantage gained with multiple/combined pulleys. ...
- The Power of Mechanical Advantage The Power of Mechanical Advantage
Students learn about the mechanical advantage offered by pulleys in an interactive and game-like manner. Using a LEGO® MINDSTORMS® robotics platform and common hardware items, students build a mechanized elevator system.
- Engineering: Simple Machines Engineering: Simple Machines
Students are introduced to the six types of simple machines — the wedge, wheel and axle, lever, inclined plane, screw, and pulley — in the context of the construction of a pyramid, gaining high-level insights into tools that have been used since ancient times and are still in use today.
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- The Advantage of Machines The Advantage of Machines
In this lesson, students learn about work as defined by physical science and see that work is made easier through the use of simple machines. Already encountering simple machines everyday, students will learn about their widespread uses in improving everyday life.
- A Simple Solution for the Circus A Simple Solution for the Circus
In this activity, students are challenged to design a contraption using simple machines to move a circus elephant into a rail car.
- Just Plane Simple Just Plane Simple
This lesson introduces students to three of the six simple machines used by many engineers. These machines include the inclined plane, the wedge and the screw.
- Tools and Equipment, Part I Tools and Equipment, Part I
Students act as engineers creating a design for a ramp at a construction site by measuring four different inclined planes and calculating the ideal mechanical advantage versus the actual mechanical advantage of each.
- Machines and Tools, Part II Machines and Tools, Part II
In this activity, students gain first-hand experience with the mechanical advantage of pulleys. Students are given the challenge of helping save a whale by moving it from an aquarium back to its natural habitat into the ocean.
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- Simple Machines and the Rube Goldberg Challenge Simple Machines and the Rube Goldberg Challenge
Students research and learn about simple machines and other mechanisms through learning about a Rube Goldberg machine. Student teams design and build their own Rube Goldberg devices that incorporate at least six simple machines. This project is open-ended with much potential for creativity and fun.
- Splash, Pop, Fizz: Rube Goldberg Machines Splash, Pop, Fizz: Rube Goldberg Machines
Refreshed with an understanding of the six simple machines; screw, wedge, pully, incline plane, wheel and axle, and lever, student groups receive materials and an allotted amount of time to act as mechanical engineers to design and create machines that can complete specified tasks.
- Flying T-Shirts Flying T-Shirts
During this engineering design/build project, students investigate many different solutions to a problem. Their design challenge is to find a way to get school t-shirts up into the stands during home sporting events. They follow the steps of the engineering design process to design and build a usabl...