In this activity, you can manipulate a system made up of ramps, switches, and gears. Marbles roll through the system and eventually hit a lever attached to a flagpole on the right side of the system. Each time the marble hits the lever, the flag goes up. If the flag falls all the way to the bottom, the system has broken down. You must keep the flag from falling all the way to the bottom while removing parts of the system. The "Learn More" button provides you with background information about systems and encourages you to think about what you have learned in the context of other systems.
This interactive can be used to introduce a variety of lessons on systems and systems design. (See the related Science NetLinks resources listed below.) It is designed so that students can observe and explore. It is important, therefore, to stress that there is no prescribed way to explore the interactive and that "winning" is not the object of the exercise.
Allow students to manipulate the system on their own, encouraging them to remove some of the blocks and observe what happens to the system. Then discuss with the class what they have observed, encouraging students to name the parts of the system and to describe what the parts do individually, as well as what they do with other parts of the system. Have students click on the "Learn More" button to read more about systems. Then allow students to explore the interactive again. Encourage them to come up with questions or challenges that they would like to explore about the system, such as how to get rid of the most parts while still having the system "do its job."