Mechanical Comprehension Flash Card Set 184161

Cards 10
Topics Building Loads, Drag, Fixed Pulley, Gear Trains, Kinetic Energy, Mechanical Advantage, Potential Energy, Power, Torque, Wheel and Axle

Study Guide

Building Loads

Dead load is the weight of the building and materials, live load is additional weight due to occupancy or use, snow load is the weight of accumulated snow on a structure and wind load is the force of wind pressures against structure surfaces.


Drag is friction that opposes movement through a fluid like liquid or air. The amount of drag depends on the shape and speed of the object with slower objects experiencing less drag than faster objects and more aerodynamic objects experiencing less drag than those with a large leading surface area.

Fixed Pulley

A fixed pulley is used to change the direction of a force and does not multiply the force applied. As such, it has a mechanical advantage of one. The benefit of a fixed pulley is that it can allow the force to be applied at a more convenient angle, for example, pulling downward or horizontally to lift an object instead of upward.

Gear Trains

Connected gears of different numbers of teeth are used together to change the rotational speed and torque of the input force. If the smaller gear drives the larger gear, the speed of rotation will be reduced and the torque will increase. If the larger gear drives the smaller gear, the speed of rotation will increase and the torque will be reduced.

Kinetic Energy

Kinetic energy is the energy of movement and is a function of the mass of an object and its speed: \(KE = {1 \over 2}mv^2\) where m is mass in kilograms, v is speed in meters per second, and KE is in joules. The most impactful quantity to kinetic energy is velocity as an increase in mass increases KE linearly while an increase in speed increases KE exponentially.

Mechanical Advantage

Mechanical advantage is a measure of the force amplification achieved by using a tool, mechanical device or machine system. Such a device utilizes input force and trades off forces against movement to amplify and/or change its direction.

Potential Energy

Potential energy is the energy of an object by virtue of its position relative to other objects. It is energy that has the potential to be converted into kinetic energy.


Power is the rate at which work is done, P = w/t, or work per unit time. The watt (W) is the unit for power and is equal to 1 joule (or newton-meter) per second. Horsepower (hp) is another familiar unit of power used primarily for rating internal combustion engines. A 1 hp machine does 550 ft⋅lb of work in 1 second and 1 hp equals 746 watts.


Torque measures force applied during rotation: τ = rF. Torque (τ, the Greek letter tau) = the radius of the lever arm (r) multiplied by the force (F) applied. Radius is measured from the center of rotation or fulcrum to the point at which the perpendicular force is being applied. The resulting unit for torque is newton-meter (N-m) or foot-pound (ft-lb).

Wheel and Axle

A wheel and axle uses two different diameter wheels mounted to a connecting axle. Force is applied to the larger wheel and large movements of this wheel result in small movements in the smaller wheel. Because a larger movement distance is being translated to a smaller distance, force is increased with a mechanical advantage equal to the ratio of the diameters of the wheels. An example of a wheel and axle is the steering wheel of a car.