It's been a long time since SCIENCE has been a feature here. Rest assured, we've continued doing wacky experiments and science fair projects. Many are interesting, but few have really sparked a lasting desire to do more. This one really ignited a fire.
Lilly was presented with a lot of possible topics for her science project this year. One was about simple machines. We started talking about pulleys, which led to ropes, avalanche rescue, and finally a project idea: What would it take to lift someone into the treehouse using pulleys and rope? Awesome.
(If you don't know about simple machines you should check them out starting with this wikipedia article.)
Thanks to friends and Amazon we had a handful of rescue pulleys and a climbing rope. Lilly legitimately developed equations to determine how many pulleys would be needed to lift different weights and how much rope would be needed in the system. She diagrammed the layout and set me to work rigging it all up.
What struck me about this project was that she was really, really interested in how it was working, how it could be expanded, and she was having a ton of fun. As the weights being lifted into the treehouse, so were Clara and Henry.
Along the way, I passed on what little knowledge I have about working with ropes. (Since I'm just barely proficient in rescuing someone from a crevasse that wasn't much.)
So what were the findings?
Lilly can pretty easily lift Clara into the treehouse (about 20 feet up) using three pulleys and about 80 feet of rope. With significantly more effort she can get Clara up there with just two pulleys and 60 feet of rope. One pulley isn't really possible. She could also lift herself into the treehouse which was an exciting discovery, though not the purpose of the project.
We also learned that everyone loved playing with the ropes and pulleys. Lilly has even asked to take a climbing class now so maybe she'll become the expert. And if I have to be there, too, well, so be it.