Wheels and Axles



Problem Solving

approximate time

90 minutes


This project challenge is suggested after the class has investigated the use of wheels and axles. It can be done without the Simple Machines add on kit. The class should have had a discussion or read books on the mechanics of how the two work together. Always review the group norms that were predetermined in order for the participants to positively collaborate with one another.

"Where should we put this wheel?" 

"Where should we put this wheel?" 

Wheels come in different sizes

Wheels come in different sizes

Group attaching wheels to vehicle

Group attaching wheels to vehicle

Team work

Team work

Mowing the lawn

Mowing the lawn

Creature on the move

Creature on the move

Challenges for Students:


Students will build a vehicle with wheels and axles. Their task is to transport a load from point A to point B, which will be determined by the teacher and the class.

Logistical PReliminary work:

Begin by discussing the difference of going around an object vs. rotating around an axle. Define and explain how an axle and wheel work together.

Address the position of where axles can be placed and discuss why you would use them on the circular Rigamajig pieces. This minor step of problem solving as a class may allow for students to be more efficient during their creation time. 

Illustrate and explain how to lock in an axle using two bolts.   

Ask the students to experiment with trying to carry the load from point A to point B without the assistance of the vehicle.

Introduce the task.

Divide up Rigamajig kit equally amongst the group.

Break up class into groups of 2 - 4 students. Each group should come up with a group name. This encourages camaraderie amongst the groups and makes it easier to address the groups as they work. 

Provide paper and pencil for students to draw their ideas while brainstorming and making plans with their group members.

Have Fun!

Investigative questions to ask during exploration:

Does the work of moving the load from point A to point B become easier with the help of the vehicle? Explain why.

What modifications can you continue to add or take away to improve the function of your vehicle?

Teacher will be recording conversations and taking pictures/video to document work.

Gallery Walk:

Each group will have time to talk about the process of building their vehicles and show how it moves the load from point A to point B.  The teacher/facilitator may also encourage groups to share what worked best and the major challenges. Each group should be able to articulate how their invention made the transport easier than just simply carrying the load.

Clean up of materials.

Optional Language Arts Extension:

Ask the students to write an individual reflection in a “simple machines journal” that keeps track of their projects. This can be a drawing that is labeled, sentences, photographs; anything that the class/child decides to use as their documentation of their experience and creations. The format should be determined by the person facilitating the explorations. Reflection and keeping a record encourages true scientific behavior and is another skill that emerges from these projects.

Follow-up Questions

What are you (were you) most curious about?

What made for good collaboration?

Tell us about a problem you encountered and your group's solution.