Mechanical Comprehension Flash Card Set 480858

Cards 10
Topics Conservation of Mechanical Energy, First-Class Lever, Force Lines of Action, Gravitational Potential Energy, Hydraulic Pressure, Inclined Plane, Modulus of Elasticity, Screw, Wedge

Study Guide

Conservation of Mechanical Energy

As an object falls, its potential energy is converted into kinetic energy. The principle of conservation of mechanical energy states that, as long as no other forces are applied, total mechanical energy (PE + KE) of the object will remain constant at all points in its descent.

First-Class Lever

A first-class lever is used to increase force or distance while changing the direction of the force. The lever pivots on a fulcrum and, when a force is applied to the lever at one side of the fulcrum, the other end moves in the opposite direction. The position of the fulcrum also defines the mechanical advantage of the lever. If the fulcrum is closer to the force being applied, the load can be moved a greater distance at the expense of requiring a greater input force. If the fulcrum is closer to the load, less force is required but the force must be applied over a longer distance. An example of a first-class lever is a seesaw / teeter-totter.

Force Lines of Action

Collinear forces act along the same line of action, concurrent forces pass through a common point and coplanar forces act in a common plane.

Gravitational Potential Energy

Gravitational potential energy is energy by virtue of gravity. The higher an object is raised above a surface the greater the distance it must fall to reach that surface and the more velocity it will build as it falls. For gravitational potential energy, PE = mgh where m is mass (kilograms), h is height (meters), and g is acceleration due to gravity which is a constant (9.8 m/s2).

Hydraulic Pressure

Hydraulics is the transmission of force through the use of liquids. Liquids are especially suited for transferring force in complex machines because they compress very little and can occupy very small spaces. Hydraulic pressure is calculated by dividing force by the area over which it is applied: P = F/A where F is force in pounds, A is area in square inches, and the resulting pressure is in pounds per square inch (psi).

Inclined Plane

An inclined plane is a simple machine that reduces the force needed to raise an object to a certain height. Work equals force x distance and, by increasing the distance that the object travels, an inclined plane reduces the force necessary to raise it to a particular height. In this case, the mechanical advantage is to make the task easier. An example of an inclined plane is a ramp.

Modulus of Elasticity

The modulus of elasticity measures how much a material or structure will deflect under stress. Stretch modulus is longitudinal stretch (like stretching raw bread dough), shear modulus is longitudinal deflection (like the horizontal displacement of a stack of magzines when a heavy object is placed upon them), and bulk modulus is compression of volume (like the compression of a loaf of bread under a heavy can at the bottom of a grocery bag).


A screw is an inclined plane wrapped in ridges (threads) around a cylinder. The distance between these ridges defines the pitch of the screw and this distance is how far the screw advances when it is turned once. The mechanical advantage of a screw is its circumference divided by the pitch.


The wedge is a moving inclined plane that is used to lift, hold, or break apart an object. A wedge converts force applied to its blunt end into force perpendicular to its inclined surface. In contrast to a stationary plane where force is applied to the object being moved, with a wedge the object is stationary and the force is being applied to the plane. Examples of a wedge include knives and chisels.