How to Make a Compound Machine

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A can is the body of the compound machine.
A can is the body of the compound machine. (Image: Sandra L. Petersen)

Students learn about six simple machines in science classes -- the pulley, lever, wedge, wheel and axle, inclined plane, and the screw. A compound machine combines two or more of these simple machines to perform a task. A typical science class project calls for students to create compound machines integrating several simple machines. Make a windlass, which is a machine that picks up heavy objects, that actually works using a screw and a wheel and axle constructed of found materials.

Things You'll Need

  • Empty aluminum pop can
  • Scratch awl
  • Hammer
  • 2- to 3-inch-long screw, a little larger in diameter than the hole the awl can make
  • Long-handled plastic spoon
  • Electrical tape
  • Hook top from a wire clothes hanger
  • 48 inches of yarn

Punch a hole in the bottom of the aluminum pop can using the scratch awl and hammer.

Punch the hole in the center of the can's bottom.
Punch the hole in the center of the can's bottom.

Thread the end of the screw into the hole.

Position the handle of the plastic spoon in the top hole of the empty can with the bowl of the spoon protruding approximately 3 inches from the hole. Secure it in place with electrical tape.

Use the can's pre-made opening to hold the spoon.
Use the can's pre-made opening to hold the spoon.

Tie one end of the yarn to the hook top from the wire clothes hanger, making a double knot.

Place the pop can on its side. Lay the untied end of the yarn across the rounded surface of the pop can side. Tape the yarn securely in place with electrical tape.

Electrical tape holds the yarn in place.
Electrical tape holds the yarn in place.

Wind the yarn by holding the end of the screw in the right hand and rotating the can with the spoon. The screw threads into the hole at the bottom of the can while the yarn winds onto the can.

Wind the yarn around the can.
Wind the yarn around the can.

Drag the hook across the item you wish to pick up from the floor. When the hook catches on the article, wind the yarn as directed.

Don't bend over, let a compound machine pick up your socks.
Don't bend over, let a compound machine pick up your socks.

Tips & Warnings

  • By using fishing line and a fishing hook and sinker, this compound machine becomes a makeshift fishing rig.
  • The edges of the pop can opening can be sharp.

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