Build Your Own Rube Goldberg Machine

4 min to read
A young girl building a machine

Get inspired by Caroline’s Guinea Pig Feeder

Creativity knows no bounds with Charlotte’s Yahtzee Dice Roller

Here are some additional Rube Goldberg machines that:

1. Identify Your Rube Goldberg Machine Task

Tasks are the action or end goal you are hoping to achieve at the completion of your Rube Goldberg machine.  

Task Ideas: turn off a light, crush a can, drop a bottle in a recycling bin, water a plant, plant seeds in a pot of soil, pop a balloon, fill a glass with water, shut a door, squeeze toothpaste onto a toothbrush, or turn off an alarm clock. 

2. Choose Your Supplies

Choosing your supplies is important because they encompass the complexity or simplicity of the machine and how it goes about completing the identified task. Challenge your child to find at least three recyclable materials. Keep in mind that you may change your mind and add or leave out materials during the building process. 

Possible materials and items include: aluminum foil, cardboard, water bottles, toilet paper or paper towel tubes, cereal or cake-mix boxes, books, cans, dominoes, funnels, marbles, golf balls, string, buckets, cups or bowls, batteries, and magnets to name a few. 

3. Sketch it Out

After you’ve identified your task and organized materials, begin sketching out your machine before you build it. This will help your child choose the right materials, identify gaps, and assemble a mechanism that works.

1. After the ideation and sketching steps are complete, you can then begin to assemble materials and build your Rube Goldberg machine.

2. Assemble the different parts of your machine, helping your child test each part before moving to the next. Consider these possible actions as you build:

  • Use circuits to conduct electricity to small motors.

Aluminum foil ball conducts energy to windmill

  • Create a popsicle stick ramp that knocks a series of dominos over that then creates a chain reaction.
A domino effect that turns into a chain reaction
  • Send a soup can rolling and create weighted movement in a pully system like Charlotte.

A can of beans sets off a pully system

  • Utilize household toys or even robots to create actions in your machine. 
Let gravity take center stage

3. Remember to HAVE FUN!

Lightsaber kick starter

4. Once the machine is complete, test it to see if it works.

5. Take notes on which parts of the machine work and which ones don’t. Does it achieve the task?

6. If something doesn’t work, what can you do to make it work next time? Try one small change each time you test it until your amazing machine works!

If you’re struggling to choose an experiment for your student’s upcoming science fair, Rube Goldberg machines make excellent STEM science fair projects for kids in middle school. From complex processes to fun and creative outputs, everyone is sure to be amazed!  

Interested in other STEM projects for kids? Search Connections Academy’s Resource Hub for more ideas and activities like this one

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