Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology

Rube Goldberg Machine Revisited


This project is an extension of the Rube Goldberg Machine project earlier in this book. Rather than limit the allowed energy forms to just mechanical energy, this expanded challenge may include thermal energy, electrical energy, and/or electromagnetic energy.

Rube Goldberg devices—overly complex mechanisms for performing simple tasks—have been around since Rube Goldberg started publishing cartoons of his extravagant inventions in the early twentieth century. Designing, building, and troubleshooting such a device is a fun, creative, and challenging project, as well as a lesson in energy transformations.

The general approach is to provide some level of excitement around the possibilities by showing students some of the example Rube Goldberg machines in the Implementation section or videos of machines built by your previous classes. Then explain expectations for the activity including the resources available, the constraints (such as time and space), and the grading criteria.

We have provided an example Student Information handout with a fair level of detail as a starting point. You will want to customize this for your own situation depending on your particular goals, equipment, and time constraints.

Learning Outcomes

  • Design and build a working machine.
  • Use tools effectively to manipulate common materials.

Sensors and Equipment

No probeware required for this experiment.

Next Generation Science Standards

Disciplinary Core Ideas

PS3.B Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer (HS-PS3)

Crosscutting Concepts

  • Cause and Effect
  • Systems and System Models
  • Energy and Matter

Science and Engineering Practices

  • Asking Questions and Defining Problems
  • Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

Experiment 36 from Physics Explorations and Projects Lab Book

<i>Physics Explorations and Projects</i> book cover

Included in the Lab Book

Vernier lab books include word-processing files of the student instructions, essential teacher information, suggested answers, sample data and graphs, and more.

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