Compound Machine Examples: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Michelle Jones

Michelle has taught at the elementary level and has earned a master's degree.

People use machines everyday to make work easier. Scissors and knives help cut things; wheels and ramps make it easier to move things. This lesson describes a few examples of compound machines.

Simple + Simple = Compound

Mrs. Jones has hired three boys to move rocks from a house down the street to the garden in her backyard. There are a lot of medium-sized rocks to move and the boys really don't want to move them by hand. They decide to use compound machines to make this job easier.

Compound machines are just machines that are made up of two or more simple machines. Simple machines include a wedge, an inclined plane (like a ramp), a screw, a pulley, a wheel and axle, and a lever. These tools are useful by themselves, but when you combine them, they can make a difficult job - like moving a bunch of rocks - very easy!

Shovel

Instead of lifting the rocks by hand, the boys realize it would be much easier to pick them up with a shovel. A shovel is made up of a wedge and a lever. The wedge part scoops up the rocks, then when pressure is put on the lever (the handle), the rocks can be lifted up. This way, the boys don't have to use as much energy, and they can pick up more rocks at once!

Shovels are also very useful in clearing snow off a driveway.
Picture of a snow shovel

Wheelbarrow

So what do they do with the rocks after they've picked them up? One of the boys finds a wheelbarrow to put them in. After taking a closer look at it, they realize this is the perfect way to move the rocks to Mrs. Jones's backyard. A wheelbarrow is made up of levers, inclined planes, screws, and wheels and axles. It would take many trips and lots of energy for the boys to carry the rocks by hand to Mrs. Jones's yard. The wheelbarrow allows them to easily move a lot of rocks from one place to another.

Notice how much material fits in this wheelbarrow. Imagine carrying all of that by hand!
Picture of a filled wheelbarrow

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