Constructed Rube Goldberg Devices. Provide a qualitative analysis of part of the Rube Goldberg device you are creating for your final project in which static forces are in equilibrium before the step is triggered and/or a lever is involved in the motion.
Provide a qualitative analysis of part of the Rube Goldberg device you are creating for your final project in which static forces are in equilibrium before the step is triggered and/or a lever is involved in the motion. What forces exist? How do you know they are in equilibrium? You may also include any thought about torque (levers) that relates to the readings and problem set.
Students research simple machines and other mechanisms as they learn about and make Rube Goldberg machines. Working in teams, students utilize the engineering design process to design and build their own Rube Goldberg devices with 10 separate steps, including at least six simple machines. In addition to the use of readily available classroom craft supplies, 3D printers may be used (if available) to design and print one or more device mechanisms. Students love this open-ended, team-building project with great potential for creativity and humor.
Suggested materials for device building. Feel free to provide students with additional inexpensive supplies.
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Who can name a simple machine? What about a mechanism? How can learning about simple machines and mechanisms help us design more complex machines and devices?
Today, we are going to learn about a seemingly complex machine that is really quite simple if you break it down: a Rube Goldberg machine!
Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist, inventor, and engineer who is famous for drawing cartoons that depict overly complicated machines that perform very simple tasks, such as a “self-operating napkin.” His ideas were later adapted in movies and in television for comedic effect.
What do you know about Rube Goldberg devices? What makes a Rube Goldberg device unique?
(Show students the Rube Goldberg Device Presentation and introduce them to other Rube Goldberg concepts, such as those listed in the Resources section.)
Now, based on your understanding of simple machines, you will collaborate in a group to build your own Rube Goldberg machine. Your device must consist of at least 10 stages and include all six simple machines. Sketch and describe the steps of your design in your notebook.
Show students an example of a complex Rube Goldberg Machine with the four-minute video, “OK Go – This Too Shall Pass – Rube Goldberg Machine” on YouTube.
For comedic effect, consider also screening this 1:40-minute clip on a Rube Goldberg Machine from the IFC show Portlandia.
The official home of Rube Goldberg.
Historical information on Rube Goldberg, the cartoonist, sculptor, author, engineer, and inventor.
Divide the class into teams of three or four students each. Direct them to research and plan their devices. Suggesting a planning component and having them sketch their designs (as seen in the Figure 1 example) in advance of building. This engages students in the seven-step engineering design process cycle: ask, research, imagine, plan, create, test, and improve. Teams can document this process with the Engineering Design Process Notebook.
Most machines and mechanisms are comprised of at least one of the six basic simple machines:
A working knowledge of these machines provides a good foundation for designing machines that are more complex.
Have teams demonstrate their devices in a gallery-style presentation; refer to the Rube Goldberg Rubric for grading.
Have students record their challenges and successes in notebooks or design journals.
After this challenge, students should be able to:
© 2018 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2017 Lamar University
Research Experience for Teachers Program, Lamar University
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant no. EEC 1609339—a collaborative Research Experience for Teachers Program titled, “Incorporating Engineering Design and Manufacturing into High School Curriculum,” at Lamar University in Beaumont, TX. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.