Masters of the Marble Machine

Masters of the Marble Machine photo
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Sixth-graders at East Northport Middle School recently used information from a unit on forces and energy to complete a massive challenge—to create a gravity-powered marble machine.

To start, students worked in groups of four to design and build a self-powered marble machine on a two by two stand-up peg board. Groups used materials such as paper towel tubes, pipe cleaners, water bottles, and more. Students experimented with different sized marbles to find the best size for their mechanisms.

Once each class had selected one group’s successful design, students came together to transfer these smaller designs onto a giant four by eight-foot board.

“It’s kind of like a giant science puzzle,” said Will, an ENMS 6th grader.

Students worked together using freshly learned information—like the concepts of velocity, friction, momentum, and more—to fit together the different series of ramps, pulleys, and tubes that would help their marble travel successfully to the end of the machine. Students excitedly conversed with each other, trying to unearth what would work and what would not, becoming more and more determined with each trial run.

“Students are hungry for tactile ways to implement the knowledge learned in class,” said science teacher Paul Neumann, “and we’re trying every day to give that to them.”