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Activity

Automaton

Summary: 
Build a simple machine, that is also an art project, that demonstrates levers, cams, linkages and a chain of forces.
Science content (2016 curriculum): 
Physics: Motion and Forces, Newton’s Laws, Gravity (K, 2, 6)
Physics: Simple and complex Machines (5)
Materials: 
  • cardboard box to cut up
  • blade to cut cardboard
  • tape
  • glue gun
  • skewers
  • straw that skewer will fit through
  • washers that fit over the skewer, to add weight
  • thick foam sheets, 6mm
  • scissors
Procedure: 

Follow instructions from this activity from the Exploratorium, also attached, and summarized below:
https://www.exploratorium.edu/pie/downloads/Cardboard_Automata.pdf

In brief:
Make a frame from a cardboard box, with triangles to reinforce inside the corners. Note: do not make the frame too large, or there will be too much play and the cams won't mesh.
Stick a skewer (a "shaft") horizontally through the frame, and add a circle of foam (a "cam") to it, the placement of the hole in the cam depending on which mechanism(s) you want to make.
See the attached file from the Exploratorium for ideas.
Add another foam cam on a vertical shaft through the top of the box that will rest on the first circle. Don't make this skewer too long or it will move sideways. A straw attached to the box to guide the skewer helps keep it upright. Washers give some weight so that it always rests on the lower cam.
Depending on where the horizontal shaft goes through its cam, the upright shaft will move round and round, or round and round and up and down.
Optional: add another circle on the horizontal shaft to make the upright shaft also go back and forth.
Decorate the upright shaft, so that the movement(s) is/are highlighted.

Notes: 

If the box frames are too big, the skewer lengths get too large and there is too much sideways movement.
The Exploratorium new up and down model did not work so well, but check it wasn't because our skewers weren't too long.

Glue gun burn potential means prudent use dependent on the age group and responsibility of kids. If the kids are not mechanically-minded, they will need a lot of individual attention. When an adult has to do all the hot-glueing, some groups get bored waiting around.

Grades taught: 
Gr 3
Gr 4
Gr 5
Teacher: 
Ingrid
Teaching site: 
ingridscience afterschool
JEMZ+ After school science
Activity originally developed and delivered: 

JEMZ