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The Best Resources For Learning About Rube Goldberg Machines

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'Maker Faire 2009: Lego Rube Goldberg machine' photo (c) 2009, Chris - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

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:

Rube Goldberg Photobooth from Crawford & Nelson on Vimeo.

Melvin The Magical Mixed Media Machine from HEYHEYHEY on Vimeo.

Melvin the Machine by HEYHEYHEY from Dezeen on Vimeo.

Boy, The New York Times sure gave me a bunch of additions to The Best Resources For Learning About Rube Goldberg Machines.

They have a feature article on a man who designs them, and interactive feature on one of his creations, and links to several videos, including:

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?

Cow from Nova Jiang on Vimeo.

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.

Chris Wejr shared this cool video of a school-wide Rube Goldberg Machine:

The embedded video might not be viewable on an RSS Reader. You can click through to see it or you can also see it on YouTube.

Here’s an unusual Rube Goldberg Machine:

In a divided America is it possible to find common ground? Artists and makers in 5 cities were asked to create kinetic installations inspired by their region and important contemporary issues in their community. All participants worked with each other to connect their pieces through common communication mediums like texts, emails, and phone calls. Learn more at commongroundamerica.com

Feedback is welcome.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

8 Comments

  1. Pingback: Best Resources For Learning About Rube Goldberg Machines « Leetl's Weblog

  2. Fantastic! Thank you so much for assembling these videos!

  3. Pingback: MiddleWeb's Latest Middle Grades Education Resources | MiddleWeb

  4. Hi Larry, since you wrote this a lot has happened in the Rube Goldberg world. Rube’s granddaughter, Jennifer George, wrote a fantastic coffee table book, The Art of Rube Goldberg, published by Abrams ComicArts. And a new official Rube Goldberg educational game is available for iOS and Android, “Rube Works: The Official Rube Goldberg Invention Game”. Adding the game to a unit on Rube Goldberg is especially helpful for students since they get to build Rube’s actual contraptions in the app. More at http://RubeWorks.com

  5. Hi Larry,

    I’ve created a lesson on describing processes and using passive structures that features the Target Fresh Machine advert you posted above. While it’s based around this ad, the ad itself is not essential to the lesson and other Rube Goldberg style devices could be used in its place.
    You can find the lesson here:
    http://teflgeek.net/2016/01/18/processes-and-passives/

    All the best,
    David

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