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Rube Goldberg Machine

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Rube Goldberg Machine. Final Project. Rube Goldberg, 1923, Popular Science Magazine. Who is Rube Goldberg?. Reuben Lucius Goldberg (1883-1970), Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, sculptor, song-writer, animator and author.

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Reuben Lucius Goldberg (1883-1970), Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, sculptor, song-writer, animator and author.

Rube Goldberg believed that there were two ways to do things; the simple way and the hard way, and that a surprising number of people preferred doing things the hard way. Through his “Inventions,” Rube’s drawings depict absurdly connected machines functioning in extremely complex and roundabout ways to produce a simple end result.

His cartoons were, as he said, symbols of man’s capacity for exerting maximum effort to accomplish minimal results. Because of this, Rube Goldberg has become associated with any convoluted system of achieving a basic task.

Rube was born in San Francisco, California on the Fourth of July, 1883. From the time he could hold a pencil, drawing was his main interest. However, his family pressured him to “get a profession”, so in-between drawing cartoons for the campus humor magazine, he graduated as an engineer from the University of California, Berkeley. Rube started work in the Sewer and Water Department for the City of San Francisco. After six months, he convinced his father that the Water Dept. was not for him, and that he had to work as an artist.

He then got a job as an office boy in the sports department of a major San Francisco newspaper, where he persistently submitted drawings and cartoons to his editor, until he was finally published. He soon established himself as a major west coast cartoonist.

He moved to New York where he quickly found fame through syndication of his comic strips and editorial cartoons for newspapers throughout North America and Europe. During his sixty-year professional career, Rube won every major cartoon award, and was considered a true American creative genius. He was an often-quoted personality who had the distinction of being the only living person whose name defined “complexity” in Webster’s Dictionary.


"Man will always find a complicated

means to complete a simple task."

simplified pencil sharpener
“Simplified” Pencil Sharpener

Open window (A) and fly kite (B). String (C) lifts small door (D) allowing moths (E) to escape and eat red flannel shirt (F). As weight of shirt becomes less, shoe (G) steps on switch (H) which heats electric iron (I) and burns hole in pants (J). Smoke (K) enters hole in tree (L), smoking out opossum (M) which jumps into basket (N), pulling rope (O) and lifting cage (P), allowing woodpecker (Q) to chew wood from pencil (R), exposing lead. Emergency knife (S) is always handy in case opossum or the woodpecker gets sick and can't work.

what is our project
What is our project?
  • Construct a Rube Goldberg Machine to raise a flag 2 ½ feet off table.
  • It must fit on 2 of our science tables…Approximately 5’ x 6’
  • It must have at least 10 distinct steps.
    • What is a step?
      • A step in the machine should be considered a transfer in energy from one action to another action.
      • Identical transfers of energy in secession should be considered one step.
        • For example, a set of dominos falling into each other should be considered one step. While technically each single domino falling is a step, stating one hundred steps because of the dominos is repetitive and not in the spirit of Rube Goldberg.
  • The machine should be reliable and as simple as possible.
    • Be sure to securely attach everything…duct tape, screws, nails, etc…work much better than scotch tape, clay, and sticky-tac at holding things together.
  • You have a budget of $0.00!
    • In the spirit of Rube you should reuse everyday objects in new ways.
    • You should not buy any supplies or materials for the sole purpose of this project.
    • If you need an object put it on our wanted list, ask friends and classmates, and if you can’t find what you need use something else…don’t buy it!
  • If you’re stuck and can’t get your machine to work…
    • Change it, try something different – there’s many more than one right answer to this challenge!
g u i d e l i n e s
  • Your machine can be as big or as little as you like…There is no size limit.
  • No combustibles, flammables, fire or hazardous materials may be used.
  • The machine must not imply profane, indecent, or lewd expressions.
  • Any loose or flying objects must remain within the set boundaries of the machine. This includes (but is not limited to) drops of water, slivers of balloon, and other "small" objects.
  • No glitter may be used as part of a machine and no chemical other than water may contact the floor.
  • To protect the rights of animals, no animals are permitted in any part of the projects.
  • Use of AC electricity is not permitted, in the spirit of true Rube Goldberg machines, however, battery power is allowed.
  • Follow all school and room rules at all times.
  • Get permission/assistance and follow safety procedures when using tools (saws, hammer, etc.)
  • Teacher will use power tools when necessary, but you will be with to help and guide.

required items
  • You must use a working electromagnet somewhere on your machine.
  • An object that travels up and down a hill.
  • Eight identifiable forms of energy. (everything except nuclear)
  • A ball rolling along a 1-meter marked track.
rgm project showcase rubric
RGM Project Showcase Rubric

CLASS: ___________________ RGM MACHINE NAME: ______________________

THEME: ___________________ TOTAL STEPS: ____________________________


13 Steps to Turn the Page of a Book


18 Steps to Put a Coin in a Bank


Machine to pick a winner for a prize!