By learning about the six simple machine types, kids can gain a better understanding of how people have always looked for solutions to solve their problems, sought more effective ways to do their work and learned to control or redirect forces to their advantage. Although the modern world makes use of a wide variety of compound machines, learning about the six simple machines that combine to form them provides insight into how the direction of a force and its speed can be altered to accomplish a desired goal. Many modern machines make use of the same basic principles that enable the six simple machines to do their work.
The six simple, or basic, machines are the lever, the inclined plan, the pulley, the screw, the wedge and the wheel and axle. The applied physics concepts exhibited by each of these simple devices can be seen working together in various combinations in larger and more complex compound machines. Examining the individual mechanical components of modern compound machines can help to demonstrate some of the basic laws of physics.
By examining the six simple machine types, kids can learn, for example, that applying a greater amount of force will result in a greater change of direction. They can also learn that a greater amount of mass in an object will require a greater degree of force to move that object. One of the important basic concepts that can be learned is how the fulcrum in a lever provides a mechanical advantage, or MA, that is relative to the distance between the input and the output force.