Name of Activity Rube Goldberg Machine
Author STOMP
Keywords Goldberg Machine, engineering design, planning, Simple Machines, Engineering Design Process
Subject Simple Machines
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9+
Time 4 Hours Total
Brief Description Students will use any type of LEGO or non-LEGO kit to build a Rube Goldberg Machine. This activity works well as a final project.
Lesson Objectives: – To learn about engineering design.
– To learn how to work together as a class to put together a final project.
– To use previous knowledge to accomplish a new task.
Materials Needed: – Any type of LEGO or non-LEGO kit.
– Easel with plenty of paper for planning.
– Any materials that the class specifies they will need for their machine.
Preparation and Set Up: – Arrange students into groups (or let students arrange themselves into groups).
– Set up an easel for painting.
Necessary Background Rube Goldberg was an American inventor and cartoonist who was famous for drawing pictures of complex machines that performed simple tasks in very round-about ways.

The Rube Goldberg machines that students will be creating are a series of simple machines that work together to perform a simple task. This task can be to open a door, play a sound, turn on a light etc.

Rube Goldberg
Simple Machine

  1. Introduce to the class what a Rube Goldberg machine is. Tell them that it is a series of smaller machines that work together to accomplish a simple task.
  2. Tell students that they will be building their own Rube Goldberg machine using LEGOs or non-LEGOs (whatever the teacher chooses or has available).
  3. Have students brainstorm an idea for what they want their machine to accomplish.
    1. If students need help give them some examples – turning on/off a light. Having the last machine play a song. Starting a car, turning on a computer, etc.
    2. Have student vote to decide on the task that their machine will do.
  4. Next, tell students that each group will need to create a machine that does one actions out of the series of actions that all the machines will do. Each group will therefore be responsible for one part.
  5. Have the students brainstorm the series of parts and what each part can do. Make sure students think about how to connect each part to the part before and after it.
  6. Have students assign one part to each group.
  7. Let each group brainstorm their part.
  8. When students have filled out their “planning sheets”(attached), allow them to begin building.
  9. When all the groups have completed their parts, have the class put the pieces together.
  10. When all the pieces are together allow the class to test and redesign any parts that do not work well.
  11. When the students have completed their machine take pictures and allow the students to present their machine to other students, teachers, administrators and parents. If there is time, allow students to build an advertisement or poster for their machine.
Extensions or Modifications: – Make a poster advertising either one part or the whole Rube Goldberg machine.
– Add additional parts to the machine.
Reference 1
Reference 2
Online Reference(s)–MoreinformationonRubeGoldberg
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One Response to Rube Goldberg Machine

  1. Used this as a final project on 11/21/13 and 12/5/13 with a 4th grade class at the Healey School. The goal of this system was to have a series of cars activated by a touch sensor to move and turn so as to press the touch sensor on the next car. Communication between teams became a problem (e.g. the heights of the “pressers” and touch sensors were incongruent on most of the adjacent cars).

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