It's officially summer and time for some fun! How about beating the summer slump by getting your kids to build a Rube Goldberg machine -- a comically complex invention, often made with household items, created to do a simple task? Since the real Rube Goldberg was an engineer before he became a cartoonist, the exercise is especially well-suited for exploring physics and engineering, but it's also excellent for lessons in persistence and iteration -- and teamwork, if you can get the whole neighborhood involved. I've gathered a collection of videos to inspire and encourage learning from Rube Goldberg machines.
Video Playlist: Learning with Rube Goldberg Machines!
Watch the first video below, or watch the whole playlist on YouTube.
- OK Go - This Too Shall Pass - Rube Goldberg Machine (03:54)
Let's kick off with the masters of elaborately orchestrated music videos, OK Go. They did this incredibly massive Rube Goldberg machine video in a two-story warehouse in Los Angeles. It took eight main engineers and over 60 takes to get the perfect shot.
- Sesame Street: Rube Goldberg Machines! (14:06)
With the help of kids and educators from the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey, Murray Monster learns how to make a Rube Goldberg machine. Although it's a bit long, the video is still a great explanation for the littlest engineers.
- Crumbs! - Jiwi’s Machines Ep. 1 (05:13)
Jiwi's Machines is a delightful video series that features a single-take Rube Goldberg machine in every episode. While the Chaplin-esque sensibility is endearing, even better is the fact that there are kid-hosted "Science Extra" videos and even lesson plans that explain the physics and simple machines behind each episode!
- Top 10 Rube Goldberg Machines in Movies (10:52)
How many Rube Goldberg machines can your students name from movies (besides Pee Wee's Big Adventure)? This list is your cheat sheet.
- Audri's Rube Goldberg Monster Trap (04:07)
I've featured this video in the Film Fest before, but I love it so much I can't resist sharing Audri's work again. His tenacity is impressive -- and adorable; he was only 7 years old when this video was posted in 2012.
- Dog Goldberg Machine (01:21)
Still want more? This ad for Beneful dog food went viral when it was posted in 2013, but it's not the first brand to try its hand at Rube Goldberg. Starting with Honda's 2003 Cog (606 takes!), companies like Target, Panera, GoldieBox, and Red Bull, among others, have also released Rube Goldberg ads. This is the only one with puppies, though.
- Rube Goldberg Machine AP Physics 2013 (03:09)
You can find hundreds of classroom Rube Goldberg contraptions on YouTube, but this one earned over 300,000 views for its sheer complexity.
More Resources on Rube Goldberg Machines
Whether you're trying to teach all about simple machines, explain the law of conservation of energy, or just want to keep your kids away from the TV for a few hours, a Rube Goldberg machine can be just the thing. The official Rube Goldberg website offers teaching resources, and a number of great lesson plans for all ages can be found online. I've gathered a selection of a few good ones below. Happy contraption making!
- Teaching Resources via RubeGoldberg.com
- The Best Resources for Learning About Rube Goldberg Machines via Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day
- Design and Build a Rube Goldberg and Design Your Own Rube Goldberg via TeachEngineering
- Rube Goldberg Machines (Innovative Ideas Video) via The Science Guru
- Lesson Plan: The Great Rube Goldberg Energy Challenge via New York City Department of Education
- Rube Goldberg Machine for Little Inventors via TinkerLab
- "Build Your Own Rube Goldberg Machine," by Beth Werrell via Connections Academy Blog