Engineer and cartoonist Rube Goldberg is famous for his crazy machines that accomplish everyday tasks in overly complicated ways. Students use their new understanding of types of simple machines to design and build their own Rube Goldberg machines that perform simple tasks in no less than 10 steps.
Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.
All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standard Network (ASN), a project of JES & Co. (www.jesandco.org).
In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.
Click on the standard groupings to explore this hierarchy as it applies to this document.
- International Technology and Engineering Educators Association: Technology
- G. The development of technology is a human activity and is the result of individual and collective needs and the ability to be creative. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- M. Technological systems include input, processes, output, and at times, feedback. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- F. Social and cultural priorities and values are reflected in technological devices. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- E. Design is a creative planning process that leads to useful products and systems. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- G. Brainstorming is a group problem-solving design process in which each person in the group presents his or her ideas in an open forum. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- G. Invention is a process of turning ideas and imagination into devices and systems. Innovation is the process of modifying an existing product or system to improve it. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- I. Specify criteria and constraints for the design. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- J. Make two-dimensional and three-dimensional representations of the designed solution. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- Massachusetts: Science
- 2.5 Explain how such design features as size, shape, weight, function, and cost limitations would affect the construction of a given prototype. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- 2.2 Demonstrate methods of representing solutions to a design problem, e.g., sketches, orthographic projections, multiview drawings. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- 1.2 Identify and explain appropriate measuring tools, hand tools, and power tools used to hold, lift, carry, fasten, and separate, and explain their safe and proper use. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- 2.4 Identify appropriate materials, tools, and machines needed to construct a prototype of a given engineering design. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- 2.3 Describe and explain the purpose of a given prototype. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- 1.3 Identify and explain the safe and proper use of measuring tools, hand tools, and machines (e.g., band saw, drill press, sanders, hammer, screwdriver, pliers, tape measure, screws, nails, and other mechanical fasteners) needed to construct a prototype of an engineering design. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- 2.6 Identify the five elements of a universal systems model: goal, inputs, processes, outputs, and feedback. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- 1.1 Given a design task, identify appropriate materials (e.g., wood, paper, plastic, aggregates, ceramics, metals, solvents, adhesives) based on specific properties and characteristics (e.g., weight, strength, hardness, and flexibility). (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- Next Generation Science Standards: Science
- Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved. (Grades 6 - 8)  ...show
- Create practical representations of simple machines (prototypes).
- Follow the steps of the engineering design process.
- Use tools safely.
- Learn the five elements of a technology system: goal, inputs, processes, outputs and feedback.
- examples of simple and complex machines (pulleys, hammer, ramps, bicycle, wheelbarrow, etc.)
- illustrations of Rube Goldberg machines
- assorted wood, metals, plastics and composites
- foam core board and extruded foam insulation make good bases as they are light, sturdy, and easy to attach things to
- miscellaneous construction materials such as wire hangers, cardboard, screws, wire, string, glue and tape
- assorted tools, such as screwdrivers, saws, drills and hammers
- poster paper, markers, crayons, pencils, rulers, etc
- assorted discarded "raw materials," for student prototypes
- assorted materials that students bring from home, which may be returned at project end
|prototype:||A first attempt or early model of a new product or creation. May be revised many times.|
|schematic:||Showing the basic form or layout of something.|
- Gather materials, including those provided by students.
- Make copies of the Student Activity Worksheet.
- Choose a time frame for completion of machines.
With the Students
- Review the types and combinations of simple machines in use around us every day.
- Brainstorm how simple machines might be incorporated into more complex machines.
- Brainstorm simple tasks that lend themselves to the project.
- Look at illustrations of Rube Goldberg machines.
- Discuss any safety concerns that students must be aware of pertaining to the supplies and tools available to them.
- Explain requirements and expectations for the assessment (grading) rubric. Perhaps minimum number of steps and/or minimum number of types of simple machines incorporated. Given classroom space constraints, it may be helpful to set a maximum overall volume of the finished machine prototype.
- Divide the class into groups of students.
- Have each team identify a basic task and design a machine to accomplish that task in no less then 10 steps.
- Have each team produce a schematic design, labeling each part and its function, indicating materials, and describing each step needed to accomplish the task.
- Have each team use tools and machinery to build a working prototype of its design.
- Have each team make a class presentation of its prototype, including a demonstration and explanation of the process. Use the attached rubric for grading.
- How can we build a device that incorporates all the six types of simple machines and accomplishes a basic task in no less then 10 steps?
- How can we represent the process used to complete this design from goal to feedback?
- Does the prototype accomplish the basic task in no less then 10 steps?
- How does the prototype work to accomplish this task in no less then 10 steps?
- Does or could this prototype have a practical application?
- What changes would we make to the prototype based on our testing experiences – both successes and failures - during the design process? How would you make it better, funnier, more reliable, safer? (Engineers ask these questions when they design and improve products and machines.)
- How do we use tools to shape, cut, and/or fabricate elements of the design?
Additional Multimedia Support
Rube Goldberg is the ® and © of Rube Goldberg, Inc. Students can enter designs in the annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest. For current information, contact Rube Goldberg Inc. at www.rubegoldberg.com or 212-371-3760.
© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2005 Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Center for Engineering Educational Outreach, Tufts University
Last modified: September 3, 2015