At STEMtastic, LLC, we present rigorous and relevant activities to children that use an interdisciplinary approach to learning—incorporating science, technology, engineering and math. Students come to our center for classes, and we work with a variety of groups in the Boerne area to lead STEM activities for children. Today, we are going to guide you through a set of projects that you can do at home with your kids using LEGO blocks, and your kids will grow in knowledge about simple machines using pulleys. We have advice about how to get started and how to tailor this activity to children of different ages. For more ideas about activities you can do while learning at home with your kids, visit the main page, Charter a Voyage of Learning.
I decided to do this activity because simple machines are everywhere, and kids are never too young to learn about how things work. Here are some basic materials you might need. LEGO, string, and your creativity.
LEGO Simple Machines for Preschoolers
For young children, introduce this activity by explaining what a pulley is and what it is used for. A video on YouTube called Need a Lift? Try a Pulley! will help to explain what a pulley is.
After you watch the video, have your kids build a stand to hold the pulley. They may need some help building, but as they build have them think about a color pattern with the bricks as they build. Their stand does not have to look like the picture. The picture is just a starting point for their creativity. When they have everything built and their have tried their pulley by pulling the string start adding pennies one at time to see how much mass (money) their pulley can pull. At some point, the bricks will separate and fall. See if your kids can figure out a way to make their stand stronger. The goal is to teach them about pulleys but along the way they are also learning to experiment with their different ideas.
LEGO Simple Machines for Grade Schoolers
For children in middle grades, talk about the purpose of this activity which is simple machines and pulleys. They can watch a video on YouTube called “What is a pulley?” After they watch video, have them build a stand and basket for their pulley system. They can add coins to see how much mass (money) their pulley system can hold. When/if their support breaks, have them build a stronger one. Then have you child build a crank/handle to reel the rope in to pull the basket up. You can ask your kids where they have seen a pulley doing work before and give them examples like elevators, cranes, and exercise machines. Do not forget to let your kids run with their ideas to build and try multiple pulleys.
LEGO Simple Machines for Upper Schoolers
For teens, build on their knowledge of pulleys. This age group should know what pulleys are. As they build, they can start out with one pulley or build a wall with multiple pulleys. Let them work and see what they come up with. Have them experiment with the number of pulleys. They do need to build a handle to crank to pull the rope. After they complete this, have them figure out how to motorize their pulley system that they built. Ask them about the choices they made. Get them talking about where pulleys are used and how they would use this skill in the future.
For an extra challenge, ask students to build a truck with a pulley. When the truck moves backwards it reels up the window. When moving forward, it lowers it.
Simple Machines and More Activities at STEMtastic
At STEMtastic, we provide supplemental education to kids 6+ years old and specialize in a wide range of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) based classes. We offer in-person classes for not only LEGO Simple Machines, but also, robotics, programming and coding, virtual game design, indoor and outdoor drones, and other STEM classes. We also offer several virtual classes. Our overall mission is to provide supplemental education classes to kids interested in STEM and increase their excitement and interest. Come to our website, STEMtastic.com, for updated information about our classes.
Charter Moms Chats
Watch Janie Sellers’ interview with Inga Cotton to learn more about LEGO simple machines and how to engage your kids in STEM projects at home.
For more videos and interviews with Inga Cotton, visit our Charter Moms Chats page.
For more ideas about activities you can do while learning at home with your kids, visit the main page, Charter a Voyage of Learning.
About the Author
Janie Sellers is the President, Owner, and Founder of STEMtastic, LLC. She is a retired educator spending most of her time teaching science. She has taught fourth, seventh, and eighth grades. She has a Master of Education (M.Ed.) degree from Schreiner University and is a certified robotics instructor.