Explorit: Farm machines simpler than you might think

By From page A5 | February 08, 2013

When you think of a farm, what comes to mind? Flocks of happy animals frolicking in the sun? Fields of lush vegetation teeming with fresh produce? But for a farmer, the answer is probably lots of work!

Fortunately, modern farmers have a variety of tools to help them get their jobs done. Machines can be big or small, simple or complex, but they all help us do work. When scientists talk about doing work, they mean making things move. Machines help us move things.

But did you know that all those tools — and every machine in the world, for that matter — can be broken down into just six types of simple machines? Pulleys, screws, ramps (or inclined planes), wedges, levers and wheels are the simple machines from which all complex machines are constructed. Each of these simple machines help us move things up, down, sideways or away from each other with less effort than if we had to move them by ourselves.

We all use simple machines every day such as the wheels on a bike or the hinges on a door that leverage it open. Even a flight of stairs that helps us move up to a higher place is an inclined plane and so is a simple machine.

And farmers know how useful simple machines can be on a farm. A hoe is a lever that helps move the soil. The wheels on carts, trucks and tractors help move people, plants, animals and other tools anywhere the farmer needs them.

But when one simple machine is combined with other simple machines to make a device that can do even more, that’s a complex machine and farms have lots of those, too. You can explore the many kinds of machines, both simple and complex, used in agriculture at Explorit’s current “Beyond the Table” exhibition.

For the last month of the exhibition, Explorit is showcasing the tools of the agricultural trade. Each weekend in February you’ll have a chance to investigate a different farm tool and build one to take home. These activities are free with paid admission to the exhibition.

Join us this Saturday and Sunday to build a mini wheelbarrow and discover what simple machines it contains and how it can be helpful on a farm or in your own garden. There’s one simple machine in the wheelbarrow’s name, but what simple machine are you using when you lift the wheelbarrow’s handles? The answer can be found in the Beyond the Table exhibition!


Explorit’s coming events:

Football and Farm Tools February: Each weekend in February from 1 to 5 p.m., Explorit will feature a special football or farm-themed activity for visitors, free with paid admission to the museum. Make a wheelbarrow Feb. 9-10, create a paper roll tractor Feb. 16-17 and make a crop-dusting airplane Feb. 23-24.

Presidents Day: Explorit’s exhibit will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 18.

— Explorit Science Center is at 3141 Fifth St. For more information, call 530-756-0191 or visit www.explorit.org, or “like” Explorit on Facebook at www.facebook.com/explorit.fb.

Lisa Justice

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