Rube Goldberg machines are incredibly complex machines designed to do one simple task. They’re a lot of fun to build and to watch, and offer engaging ways for students to learn about science. Designing (on paper or in real-life), building or just viewing them can also provide great language learning opportunities (Dave Dodgson recently wrote about a similar lesson he did with his class).
Here are my choices for The Best Resources For Learning About Rube Goldberg Machines:
I’ll start off with links where students can create virtual Rube Goldberg Machines online:
Goldburger To Go comes from PBS.
You can sort of build a Rube Goldberg-like machine at Tinker Ball.
Here are some great video examples:
Boy, The New York Times sure gave me a bunch of additions to The Best Resources For Learning About Rube Goldberg Machines.
Here are two Rube Goldberg machines built by Target. I especially like the second one focusing on fresh food — it’s ideal for reinforcing vocabulary with English Language Learners (show the video and have students identify what they are seeing):
A first grader created a Rube Goldberg Machine. That in itself makes this a neat video to watch. The “kicker,” though, is that he makes some explicit connections to the scientific method, too:
Here’s a Mythbusters Rube Goldberg Machine:
Watch the world’s most extraordinary ‘kinetic sculpture’ at The Guardian.
A cow’s digestive system as a Rube Goldberg Machine?
Thanks to Amy Erin Borovoy for this video of a dog-powered Rube Goldberg Machine:
2 Rube Goldberg Machines is an interactive with video and questions created by Renée Maufroid.
Here’s a Rube Goldberg Machine powered by light:
You don’t see this everyday — the Passover story told through a Rube Goldberg Machine.
I saw some of my IB Theory of Knowledge students showing videos of machines they had created in Physics class, and thought they were pretty neat.
I asked our school’s talented Physics teacher, Arthur Sisneros, if he would mind writing a description of his lesson, and also invited teachers to share their videos.
Here’s Arthur’s description, along with a few student videos (I’ll be adding more as students remember to send them to me!):
The Rube Goldberg project is meant to be a summative assessment for my first semester. Like most physics classes, my first semester of physics is dominated by motion (kinematics, forces, momentum, and mechanical energy). I introduce the Rube Goldberg project at the end as an engineering project. We talk about engineering vs. science (defining problems and solving problems as opposed to asking questions and developing explanations). I also require them to include a theme and to be creative. After the project is built, I require them to isolate a few of the events, measure them (distance, time, mass, or whatever they need to measure), and use those measurements to calculate various quantities (average velocity, acceleration, force, etc.). On the presentation day, I have students do a gallery walk to see the other projects, and I conduct group interviews where I delve a little deeper into the understanding of the major physics topics.
Feedback is welcome.