In this lesson students will change the properties of a material by applying heat, and will see how the heat can rearrange atoms and change the material's physical shape. The shape's change generates force they can harness to run a simple machine, a lever.
- Students will create a simple machine (lever).
- Students will understand what an actuator is and how it works.
- Students will analyze examples of simple levers.
- Students will analyze the performance of a lever by adjusting some variables associated with a lever.
- Students will determine the variables that affect the performance of a lever and how each affects the lever’s performance.
Grade Level: 9-12
- Approximately 90 minutes
- Students will evaluate the lever’s performance and make necessary changes to increase the performance.
- Completion of the “Levers, Actuators, and Exciting Materials” lab.
Levers, Actuators, and Exciting Materials Lab PDF Document
- Moving Atoms QuickTime Video (3 minutes 07 seconds)
- A piece of nitinol “muscle wire” about 18 cm long
- A spool of small gauge, uncoated copper wire (22 gauge or smaller)
- A package of n-size model train track connectors. You will want to cut them into their 1 cm long components. See the pictures of the connections for more information
- A 9V battery and connector
- A simple switch
- Two staples
- A paper fastener
- A few push pins
- A large piece of foamcore board
- Needle-nosed pliers
- Duct tape
- Scissors or a pen knife
- Ball bearing (optional)
- Teacher should start a discussion about simple machines with a focus on how they make everyday life easier.
- Teacher should ask the students to brainstorm a short list of examples of levers.
- After a short discussion of the student-generated list, the teacher should have students read the background information on the
Levers, Actuators, and Exciting Materials Lab PDF Document.
- The teacher should ask the students to think of more complex products that might include levers. Are there any applications of a lever that involve more complex processes such as gears, fire, electricity, etc.?
- If any students have not already seen it, the teacher should allow the students to watch the clip: Moving Atoms QuickTime Video (3 minutes 07 seconds)
- Teacher should discuss an actuator and its applications.
- Teacher can inform the students that they will be creating a lever using an actuator and electricity.
- Students should follow the instructions on the
Levers, Actuators, and Exciting Materials Lab PDF Documentand complete the questions.
- Students can complete the “Extension” section of the lab by adding a third lever, or adding a ball bearing to the lever to observe its ability to do work.