The three years project (2018 > 2021) was born from a felt need by the partner organisations that more has to be done in order to increase learning and teaching of scientific subjects, while reducing the generally perceived inequality between men and women, with the latter being less stimulated. In fact, there is a process of growing disinterestedness of students towards STEM education, especially at secondary school level (Rohaan et al. 2010), a process whose causes can be traced back to different factors (EU, 2015):

  • Attitude of students towards science and technology have changed, becoming more pessimistic;

  • Shortages in STEM professions have not been accompanied by an increase in average wages levels, discouraging students to undertake STEM training, usually implying a consistent amount of years of study;

  • Persisting gender segregation across study fields, often starting from family environment and then spreading at secondary school and university level, still hinders girls’ and women’s later study and career opportunities;

  • The way in which STEM subjects are taught has a great influence on students’ attitudes towards science, on their motivation to study and, consequently, on their achievements.

These elements give a good reason to engage in making the school teaching of science and mathematics more open to inquiry-based activities. It’s on these points that the project is focused. The project identifies Simple Machines as particularly suited to STEM education while reducing gender inequality. By Simple Machine we intend any of various elementary mechanisms formerly considered as the elements of which all machines are composed and including the lever, the wheel and axle, the pulley, the inclined plane, the wedge, and the screw.


The Project aims to:

  • develop concepts and knowledge about Simple Machines, in terms of the learning about the composition and functioning of each device and its parts, and the identification of common uses for each of Simple Machines;

  • develop and practice engineering problem solving skills, by using the concepts of mechanical devices to produce creative solutions to Problems, as well as by carrying out and practicing the iterative engineering design process Research <–> Simulate <–> Prototype;

  • enable students to individuate and fully understand the existing connections between physical devices, mathematics, and scientific principles;

  • encourage students to self-reflect on their work, activities, and hence on their learning processes;

  • develop knowledge about concepts and functioning of Simple Machines among teachers, with the aim to promote the adoption of a more integrated, practice- and empirical-oriented STEM teaching methodology, especially with reference to engineering, combining theory and practice.


In order to achieve project objectives, the following outcomes will be achieved by students at the end of the project:

  1. increase in knowledge about concepts and principles of use of Simple Machines, as well as the increase in the ability of students to identify and describe the functioning of each of the devices, their parts, as well as the connections between the devices analysed and the corresponding Simple Machine;

  2. increase in problem solving skills among students and their knowledge about both the concepts of the mechanical devices and how such concepts can be used to produce creative and innovative solutions to engineering problems;

  3. increase in the ability of students to individuate or understand the connections between physical devices, mathematics, and scientific principles;

  4. increase in the ability of students to self-reflect on their work, activities, and hence on their learning processes;

  5. increase in the ability of students to work and design with Simple Machines to develop item concepts, as well as to engage in the engineering process, also by testing predictions through modelling and prototyping;

  6. increase in the degree of confidence of students about their abilities, as well as in their motivation to study STEM subjects, especially engineering;

  7. increase in the knowledge about Simple Machines of teachers, and the increase in the degree of adoption of integrated approaches to STEM teaching, especially with reference to engineering.


In line with OECD PISA, 2006 (OECD, 2006) context, learning outcomes that students will achieve will be framed in the following contexts:

  • Science: Explain phenomena scientifically; Evaluate and design Scientific Enquiry; Interpret data and Evidence Scientifically;

  • Mathematics: Change and relationship; Space and Shape; Quantity; Uncertainty and data;

  • Technology and applied Engineering (Molina, 2006): relationship between society and science; impact of technological applications in life of individuals and organisations; investigation of efficacy and efficiency as a social value.

Hence, students will be able to make the connections between the physical devices and their governing abstract principles.
Progressive achievement of learning outcomes will be evaluated mainly, but not only, by OECD PISA questionnaires to students and teachers. The OECD PISA tool will facilitate comparison of results between schools.


The project enables this change in students’ performance through the combination of the following outputs, achieved during project’s lifetime:

    1. STEM Need Analysis teachers and students: the aim is to get a better understanding of the needs related to students of the secondary schools participating in the project. This phase confirms the initial assumptions of the project and represents the baseline for future project developments. Results are be then transferred to a wider population through inferential analysis.

Link to the report

    1. Elaboration of a teacher training material: it constitutes the core and the envisaged output of STEMachines Project. It will be organized in units for teachers, to be applied during laboratories at school. Units are drawn in researched methodologies, which have the potential to ensure an inclusive approach. The specific content designed is based on the result of the Need Analysis conducted during the first year of the project and has the potential of being transferred to other contexts of education.

Link to teaching materials

    1. Simple Machines Games Online Educational Resource: it is the educational source for teachers to use during laboratories, with the potential of attracting students’ attention through digital devices. It provides tests and games for students, designed by teachers. Students can use the games during homework and with their peers.

Link to simple machines

Being the project implemented in a European context, the mobility of teachers and students is an essential element to be enhanced in order to assure exchange of good practices, peer-learning, cultural exchange and understanding of the educational or other aspects that influence the willingness of students towards STEM subjects. This is the added value of the project which impacts finally the quality of the outputs.

Benefits and transferability of results

Developed outputs are fully transferable and adaptable to other school grades and other EU countries, not directly involved in the project. This will be assured by project educational platform and ELIOS platform, already developed through a previous Erasmus+ project, where already more than 20 European schools have been enrolled and use the existing tools for innovative teaching practices.