Bicycle Breakdown

We had such a good time this week with our science co-op.  For the past few weeks we have been meeting with to take part in an 12-week introductory physics class.  Today was the culminating activity for a unit on simple machines.  The kids had been looking forward to it for weeks and their enthusiasm was evident in how engaged they were throughout the lesson.

For Christmas each of the kiddos received a new bicycle from Santa.  I purposely held onto their old bikes for this activity.  If you would like to do this activity yourselves, I would encourage you to check with local bike retailers for an old bike they may be willing to donate to the cause.

Before we began, we reviewed the names of the 6 simple machines:  lever, wheel & axle, inclined plane, wedge,  and pulley.  We then discussed that a bicycle is a machine made up of many simple machines.  These simple machine work together to make a very efficient machine that helps us move distances much faster than on foot.

The kiddos worked in two small groups of 3 … just the right size to assure everyone had a fair chance to use the tools.   They examined the bike only briefly and immediately went to the pile of tools I had provided (some that were purposely of no use) to begin they process of taking it apart.  Of course, they wanted to work in segregated groups .. the boys took apart Buddy’s old bike while the girls dismantled MeiLi’s.  As they worked, they were encouraged to sketch the simple machines that made up the bike.  They were so engrossed in the activity, however, that this didn’t happen. 

Everyone worked really well together and despite the fact that they did NOT record the simple machines they identified on paper, they stayed focused on the activity for nearly 2 hours.  It was such a delight … even us moms had an opportunity to visit … for me, that is a real treat!

At one point, the boys encountered a very troublesome bolt that was too tight for even I to loosen.  Fortunately, DH was home and showed us a little trick.  Using two wrenches, we extended the arm of the lever and thereby were able to loosen the bolt with less force.  Even I learned something today!