Levels of Levers

A timber and black exhibit table, with a brown and white information panel at the back. On the table top sits three rows of red levers with yellow, blue and purple cut out animals shapes.
A timber and black exhibit table, with a brown and white information panel at the back. On the table top sits three rows of red levers with yellow, blue and purple cut out animals shapes.

Different 'orders' or classes of levers have their fulcrum and load located in different positions relative to where effort is being used to work the lever.

How it works

Push or lift each lever to assess whether you need to use more or less effort, or you need to shift the lever more to lift the load. Also notice where the fulcrum is located on each type of lever.

Things to try or ask around the exhibit

Do all levers look and work the same?

Background

While all levers use a fulcrum and lever arm to shift a load, the fulcrum is not always located in the same position between the load and the effort being used to move the lever.

There are three types or classes of levers: first, second and third-class levers, which have the load, fulcrum and applied effort located in different spots along the lever arm. All of these classes of levers also work differently depending on the length of the lever arm.

Finding the science in your world

While the most obvious type of lever you can see might be a see saw in a playground, you might be surprised to realise that you probably use levers dozens of times each day.

When you cut something with scissors, you're using a type of first-class lever. When you open or close a door, you're using a type of second class lever. When you hammer a nail, or use tweezers, you're using a type of third class lever. And of course, when you're firing a trebuchet or catapult at the enemy this weekend, you're also using a third-class lever.