Grade 3

Solving Interactive Problems By Design

Computational Thinker
Boy with lightbulb thinking


Students work to solve an interactive Rube Goldberg project using strategic trial and error processes. They begin at level one and increase levels as they become successful on the free website

Students will:

  • Be learn to solve problems through observation and trial.
  • Understand why it is important to try different strategies.
  • Be able to solve increasingly difficult challenges.

Vocabulary Words:

  1. Rube Goldberg: A Rube Goldberg is a kind of contraption that is deliberately complicated for the simple functions that it has to perform. 

  2. Simple Machines: Simple machines is a simple device for altering the magnitude or direction of a force. The six basic types are the lever, wheel and axle, pulley, screw, wedge, and inclined plane.

  3. Lever: A lever is a rigid bar resting on a pivot, used to help move a heavy or firmly fixed load with one end when pressure is applied to the other.

  4. Wheel and Axle: A wheel and axle is a simple lifting machine consisting of a rope that unwinds from a wheel onto a cylindrical drum or shaft joined to the wheel to provide mechanical advantage.

  5. Pulley: A pulley is a simple machine with a wheel with a grooved rim around which a cord passes. It acts to change the direction of a force applied to the cord and is chiefly used (typically in combination) to raise heavy weights.

  6. Screw: A screw is a simple machine of the inclined-plane type consisting of a spirally threaded cylindrical rod that engages with a similarly threaded hole.

  7. Wedge: A wedge is a triangular shaped tool and is a portable inclined plane, and one of the six classical simple machines. It can be used to separate two objects or portions of an object, lift up an object, or hold an object in place.

  8. Inclined Plane: An inclined plane, also known as a ramp, is a flat supporting surface tilted at an angle, with one end higher than the other, used as an aid for raising or lowering a load.

  9. Work: Work is using a force to move an object a distance (when both the force and the motion of the object are in the same direction.

Directions for this lesson:

  • Provide students with the URL to the engineering website

  • Direct students where to find Dynamic Systems if necessary.

  • View this video on Simple Machines to see if it may be useful to show your students what a simple machine is. 

Directions for this activity:

  1. Have students log onto the website
  2. Have students click “Level Select”.
  3. Have the students begin the engineering task at level one.
  4. Tell students they will have 10 minutes to be the engineer and to get the ball in the bucket. When 10 minutes is up, they will share what they discovered.
  5. Ask the student(s) that reached the highest level to show how they figured it out.
  6. Ask them to watch this student example to identify six simple machines
  7. Ask students in partners or small groups to look at the first level and identify a simple machine present. Repeat this for the next three levels.
  8. Ask them to work in teams and create or draw an example of getting a ball into a box that uses at least three simple machines (lever, inclined plane, wedge, pulley, screw, wheel and axle)
  9. Have them present their designs explaining the simple machines they used.

Extended Option: Have them try the challenge to create their own.

NOTE: This can be done with partnerships for discussion and collaboration on the engineering process.

Different options for assessing the students:

  • Observations
  • Check for understanding
  • Students will complete levels that demonstrate the understanding of Simple Machines and how they operate. Students cannot advance unless they are successful.
  • Students will create a design on paper or computer using at least three simple machines to get a ball into a box, and label the simple machines on their design.

MITECS: Michigan adopted the "ISTE Standards for Students" called MITECS (Michigan Integrated Technology Competencies for Students) in 2018.

Computational Thinker
5a. Students formulate problem definitions suited for technology-assisted methods such as data analysis, abstract models and algorithmic thinking in exploring and finding solutions.
5c. Students break problems into component parts, extract key information, and develop descriptive models to understand complex systems or facilitate problem-solving.
5d.Students understand how automation works and use algorithmic thinking to develop a sequence of steps to create and test automated solutions.

Device: PC, Chromebook, Mac, 

Browser: Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Edge, ALL

App, Extension, or Add-on:

Engineering Website

Simple Machines for Kids Video

Six Simple Machine Project Video


Students write a story that uses and describes simple machines in it.

Students create a 3-D model that uses three or more simple machines.

NGSS Motion and Stability, Physical  Science.

This task card was created by Julie Hoehing, Lake Shore Public Schools, February 2018. Updated October 2023