RUBE GOLDBERG MACHINES!
You may be familiar with the awesomeness of Rube Goldberg machines, but have you ever thought about how perfect they are for teaching STEM concepts?? If you’re not exactly sure what we’re talking about, check out these videos HERE or HERE. The great news for us new-to-homeschooling parents is that you can build a Rube Goldberg machine with whatever objects you have lying around your house!
First, a little background information about Rube Goldberg machines. Where did that name come from? Was Rube Goldberg a real person? Yes, Reuben “Rube” Goldberg lived from 1883-1970 and is one of America’s best known cartoonists. He liked to poke fun at how well-meaning humans often overcomplicate very simple tasks. In his lifetime, he produced almost 50,000 satirical cartoons that always got a laugh from the newspaper audience. His legacy lives on today in the very famous annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest.
So how can you use this at home this week? It depends on the age of your kids and what concepts you want to focus on. Regardless, the very first thing to do is brainstorm what “task” their machine will complete! Some basic ideas are building a machine that turns on a light, cracks open an egg, slices a piece of fruit, or waters a plant. The official Rube Goldberg site has a list of tasks for your reference.
So where do you begin? Here are some ideas:
- Physics (simple machines)- check out this quick refresher on the types of simple machines. You can start by challenging your child to find an example of each machine somewhere in your home. Then, as they build a Rube Goldberg machine, you can set some kind of goal (ie “your machine must include at least 3 different simple machines”).
- Technology- the cool thing about Rube Goldberg machines is that they can be high tech or low tech. You can challenge your child to incorporate some kind of technology, which is trickier than it sounds. Perhaps a remote turns on a battery powered item which knocks down the next item. Or maybe a computer can be integrated to somehow print something, and the sheet of paper coming out of the printer can trigger the next step!
- Engineering- a gigantic component of Rube Goldberg machines is the design and planning steps, which is critical in most engineering projects. As your child is working, they’ll be doing extensive critical thinking, problem solving, planning, guess-and-checking, and interpersonal communication as they design and build their machine.
- Art- you can take the artistic angle on this and have your child sketch out their plan prior to building, even color-coding specific simple machines or components. This will help your child visualize how the sequencing of steps needs to flow and can make the building stage a LOT quicker!
- Math- even the youngest child building a basic Rube Goldberg will need to count objects as they’re lined up, or possibly use a ruler/tape measure to calculate distance between objects. Older kiddos will be doing the same tasks, but you can also incorporate concepts like angles, timing, or weight distribution.
No matter what you focus on during your Rube Goldberg experience, it’s bound to be tons of FUN! Kids of all ages truly love the excitement of building, testing, and successfully completing a Rube Goldberg machine!
Now, for a little friendly competition: The Club SciKidz Dallas Rube Goldberg Challenge! Make a video of your child showing off their original Rube Goldberg creation and share & tag us (@clubscikidzdallas on FB) or email us a link by April 1st. We’ll pick our favorite video and publish the winner, and we’ll mail your child a prize! (who doesn’t love a fun package in the mail?! We promise it’ll be something fun to DO since your child has lots of time on their hands) HAPPY BUILDING!!