Project 5.3.7a Rube Goldberg Device
Rube Goldberg was a famous Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, sculptor, and author. He was famous for his depiction of extremely complicated inventions performing simple tasks, using intricate mechanical devices and outlandish components. His cartoons were examples of “man’s capacity for exerting the maximum labor to achieve minimum results and provided a humorous diversion into the wonders of technology.”
Your team will be designing and building a Rube Goldberg mechanical device. This device will be a subsystem within the larger system. It will demonstrate the principles of the six simple machines in a fun and inventive way. The transfer of energy in your device will travel a specific path from start to finish for a minimum of 3 seconds. The device must be self-powered utilizing potential energy. There is to be no human intervention after the device is started. Counterweights can be used but must be a part of the original design. No batteries or electrical power can be used. The device must be capable of repeated demonstrations without long set-up times in between. Remember, Rube would never do anything in a straightforward, easy way.
· GTT notebook
· Pencil
· Sketch paper
· Lab power tools (scroll saws, drill presses, belt/disc sander, hot glue guns, hand-held drills, etc.)
· Hand tools (coping saws, pliers, files, hole punch, etc.)
· Materials provided by your teacher
· Stopwatch
· 12 in. x 12 in. x ¾ in. wood footprint
It is expected that each team member will participate in the fabrication and assembly as a group, however it is always a good idea to assign a few primary and seconday functional roles such as lead/backup fabricator, lead/backup assembler. Knowing your roles will allow you to "multi-task" with somebody planning, building, fabricating, and go-fering instead of all being in the same place at the same time trying to do the same thing. You should meet with your team and select a person to be responsible for the following areas also.
- Materials Manager - Responsible for the acquisition, organization, and storage of all materials and equipment used on the project.
- Documentation Manager - Responsible for the final design, material cost, and materials list submitted to the teacher prior to construction.
- Communications Manager - Responsible for the communication between your team, the teacher, and the teams directly before and after yours.
Each team member is responsible for their team's "Rube Goldberg" engineering notebook and the documentation that is to be placed in it.

1. Begin brainstorming possible solutions for your grid block. In your engineering notebook, each team member should restate the problem in their own words and sketch two possible solutions. Label the simple machines being used. Don’t forget to consider the requirements and limitations listed below.
2. With your team, reach a consensus on the best solution from the available sketched options. Don’t forget to collaborate with the teams before and after yours about the "energy transfer target location" and "handoff mechanism". List the construction methods that will be used to build your team’s device and the materials needed. Remember, you may bring in supplies from home with prior teacher approval.
3. After your teacher has given the instruction on tool usage and materials, you may begin to build your team’s device.
4. Troubleshoot the device after it is completed. Evaluate your device using the grading rubric. Changes and adjustments must be made before the final run.
5. Place your grid in its place and conduct the final run.
If your teacher chooses to have you work within a budget, keep that in mind when creating your final design.
Requirements and Limitations:
· Your team must meet the criteria stated in the Rube Goldberg Grading Rubric. Be sure to carefully review this rubric prior to starting this activity.
· Energy should take at least 3 seconds to travel through your machine. (The longer the model operates the better.). Hint: Make gravity your friend.
· Model height is unlimited, but model must stay within the 12 in. x 12 in. footprint for length and width.
· All subsystems should pass the energy at 3 in. above the board and centered or 6 in. from the side. Therefore, all subsystems will also receive the energy at 3 in. above the board (not the floor) and 6 in. from the side.
· You may use available materials found in the lab. You may also bring materials from home.
Remember: Use your creativity, problem-solving ability, and the skills you have learned in class to make the best design possible.

Costs of Goods and Equipment Chart
Amt ($)

Amt ($)

Amt ($)

All tape
$1 / 6 in.

Consult fee
$1 / min

Popsicle sticks
$1 ea.

$1 / 3

Clear plastic

$20 ea
Wire cutters

$1 / ft

Wood glue
Hand saws
$5 or
$1 per cut

$5 / ft

$2 ea
Power saws
$10 or
$2 per cut

$1 / sheet

Rubber band

Lg. cardboard
$25 / sheet

$2 ea
Paper cutter
$5 or
$1 per cut

¼ x ¼ wood


½ x ½ wood

Glue gun

½ x 2 wood


¼ x ½ wood

Xacto knife

$1 for 2

Drill press
$5 or $1 per hole

Dixie cup


Mouse trap

Scroll saw


Band saw

$1 per color


1. What were the most important criteria your team used to select the final design of your device and why did you use them?
2. What changes would you make if you could redesign your Rube Goldberg device?