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Force, Motion, Simple Machines

This article, one of a set on physics science projects, has information and ideas for force, motion, and simple machine science fair projects. Science project tips are offered by grade levels, including 1st-4th grades, 5th-8th grades, and 9th-12th grades.

Science Projects: Force, Motion, Simple Machines

Force, motion, and machines -- subcategories of Physics -- are the topics for this set of science projects. Meant to extend students’ classroom learning and textbooks, these science projects are meant to be adapted if needed to make them appropriate to a) the curriculum you are using, b) your student, c) different grade levels. Consider them as jumping off points, as well as workable ideas in their present state.

1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Grade

Tips: Provide your child with help as needed for his or her planning and execution of these science projects. Help may be needed for learning about tools or techniques. Also, students may require assistance to record results or keep track of their data collection.

  • Describe the movement of a variety of objects: animals; balls of various sizes; marbles; toy cars; remote control vehicles; playground equipment; vehicles. What words are useful for describing movement?
  • Predict the results of placing a variety of objects at the top of a ramp and pushing.
  • Predict the results of dropping a variety of objects from a consistent height.
  • Create or find a ramp of some kind (slides are possibilities). Allow a number of items (balls, toy vehicles, other round objects, e.g., gumballs) down and leave them where they land. Measure and chart the distances from the end of the ramp. How do you account for the differences you find?
  • Create a poster to illustrate simple machines, i.e., inclined plane, lever, pulley, screw, wedge, and wheel and axle.
  • Locate and classify simple machines in your home.
  • Build a simple machine and explain its purpose.
  • Explain friction and inertia.

5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th Grade

Tips: Growing independence and ability to complete tasks on their own is a typical attribute of students in this grade range. Nevertheless, you may want to follow their progress at a distance, ready to lend a hand if needed.

  • Read this feature at NOVA: and go through the section on Galileo’s experiments. Use a model to show the results of Galileo’s Leaning Tower of Pisa experiment.
  • Create collisions between two objects using a croquet kit. Examine what happens in the following cases: a) both objects moving when collision occurs; b) one object moving, the other at rest when collision occurs; c) one object held still (e.g., by holding it steady with your foot on top of it), the other moving when collision occurs.
  • From a fixed position take a movie of an object moving down a ramp and onto a flat surface and use the resulting film to determine when its speed was steady, when it increased, and when it decreased.
  • Design a ramp and choose an object so that upon reaching the bottom, the object begins to travel in the opposite direction, i.e., up the ramp. Describe your reasoning processes.
  • Build a working model of a catapult.
  • Build a clock that uses the force of gravity acting on sand to show time passed.
  • Design a scale for weighing animals taken during hunting season.

9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th Grade

Tips: High school science projects can be adapted to fit more closely with advanced curriculum like Advanced Placement (AP) courses. They can also be modified to allow a child to do a thorough exploration of a long-standing or new-found arena of interest. Plan periodic check-ins to keep long-term projects on track.

  • Explain musical terms for tempo and tempo change by analogy to terminology for vehicles and driving signage.
  • Design a container to protect a raw egg from the force of a fall from a designated height.
  • Explain how force was harnessed to move water through aqueducts in Rome.
  • Make a model of the solar system that explains the movement of the planets and moons in terms of force.
  • Demonstrate proofs of the Laws of Motion.
  • Collect movie scenes that take place in elevator shafts and depend on the pulley action for furthering the plot.
  • Create a diorama to compare and contrast ABS brakes with other braking systems.
  • Analyze a water park in terms of its use of force.
  • Analyze an amusement park or fair rides in their use of simple machines. Create a system to assess the safety of the machines you’ve analyzed.