Here at Kool Kat Science, we’ve written many STEM lessons that included requirements to test and measure various forces. To help students think like engineers, we had them build homemade tools to make the measurements. These were often just ad hoc platforms made with two rulers mounted in lumps of clay on a clipboard. Unfortunately, these ingenious contraptions were not very stable for heavy loads. The Gizmo Rig was our solution to this problem.
The Gizmo Rig is a device such as engineers build when prototyping a new idea. It was originally developed as a flexible platform to support a mechanical puppet unit. But has been used for other test and measurement applications! The rig has two upright beams and two adjustable arms. The beams and arms can support anything that can be mounted on dowel rods or bolted to wooden or steel brackets. The Gizmo Rig is assembled from a wooden board, two wooden rulers, and a handful of common hardware items.
We recently used a class set of Gizmo Rigs for a 12-week Project Based Learning unit on simple machines. During the unit, teams used their rigs to build levers, catapults, pulley assemblies, and wheel and axle machines. The unit design challenge was to build a mechanical puppet and teams used their Gizmo Rigs to support the puppets while under construction.
Materials to build rigs for eight teams cost less than $100 and your students can build a Gizmo Rig in a single class period! Our TPT Gizmo Rig lesson has full plans, material lists, and construction guides.
Earlier versions of the Gizmo Rig
Predecessors to the Gizmo Rig were often just ad hoc platforms made with two rulers mounted in lumps of clay on a clipboard. Check out some of these ingenious contraptions in the gallery below.