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Rube Goldberg Project


The goal of this project is to build a “Rube Goldberg Machine.” Rube Goldberg, (1883-1970), was a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, sculptor, and author. After graduating from University of California as an engineer, Rube went to work as an engineer with the City of San Francisco Water and Sewers Department. He continued drawing, and after six months convinced his father that he had to work as an artist. He soon got a job as an office boy in the sports department of a San Francisco newspaper. He kept submitting drawings and cartoons to his editor, and finally was published. Through his ‘inventions’ Rube Goldberg discovered harder ways to achieve easy results. His cartoons were, as he said, symbols of our capacity for exerting maximum effort to accomplish minimal results. Rube believed that there are two ways to do things; the simple way and the hard way, and that a surprisingly number of people preferred doing things the hard way. He was sometimes skeptical about technology, which contributed to making his own mechanical inventions primitive and full of human, plant and animal parts. While most machines work to make difficult tasks simple, his inventions made simple tasks amazingly complex. Rube’s inventions are a unique commentary on life’s complexities.

Project Guidelines

  • The goal of the project is to design a process whereby something simple is made complex. A successful project will use many steps to change an obvious process into something ridiculous.
  • The project is due on Wednesday, November 30, 2011. Since the result of this project is a video uploaded to YouTube, the video must be uploaded before 7:30 am on that day – all late entries will be assessed a penalty.
  • Groups of two (2) students may work together on this project.
  • The Rube Goldberg machine must use a common baseball to start the device. The ball does not need to be involved after the first step.
  • The device must employ 10 (ten) or more steps to achieve your simple goal.
  • The steps must link from one to another – as in a chain of events – one depending on the next. Divergent strains are okay provided they work toward the end goal.
  • The machine must employ at least 4 (four) types of energy. The types of energy may include but are not limited to: kinetic energy, gravitational potential energy, spring potential energy, chemical energy, electrical energy, magnetic energy, heat energy and light.
  • The devices must employ at least 4 (four) different types of machines. Machine examples include: lever, wedge, inclined plane, wheel, pulley, gear, and screw. [NOTE: please research simple machines, and mechanical advantage (MA) before implementing – a good place to start is Wikipedia]
  • The project steps, conversions and machines must be part of the process that achieves the final purpose in order to count toward the grade. “Bells and whistles” will not be counted toward the score.
  • A sketch of your project complete with a guide to energy types, machines types and energy conversion will be required on the due date. Your instructor will provide additional details on this subject. You will be required to explain the concepts behind your steps as you present your video.
  • The project is to be filmed and uploaded to “YouTube” for viewing in class. You must follow the rules of the school as well as YouTube in your submission. Please note that YouTube does not allow music to be uploaded without copyright permissions so do not add a soundtrack unless you have the rights to do so.
  • The final film must contain a single and continuous filming of the sequence of your project steps. The process must work all together and the film must not contain any edits during the process. You must also include a commentary of the parts of the project, a narration of each step and its design.
  • The machine may not include any flammable or harmful substances.
  • Once the ball is inserted, the machine must function without any external assistance of any sort by a person or device.

Rube Goldberg Project Submissions

  • Each group must complete a full-page drawing of their machine to submit with their project.
  • Each step should be labeled on the project with a number. The number will be used for identification later. The drawing should be detailed and show all of the parts and steps.
  • On the back side of the drawing, each group should complete a chart outlining how their machine meets the requirements of the project. Please use the following table structure to organize your information
  • The video of the final project must be uploaded to YouTube and be linked from the class Facebook page before the start of class on Monday
  • Please be appropriate in all project parts – think: “Goals of the Sacred Heart
  • Each group will be orally quizzed on their project
  • For each machine identified, the group members should estimate its mechanical advantage, explaining how it is used
  • For each energy identified, the group should be able to explain the nature of the energy and how it is evident


  • Grades are assigned based solely on results and not effort
  • The following rubric will be used (note – no extra credit is possible on this assignment)


One comment on “Rube Goldberg Project

  1. Pingback: Rube Goldberg Projects – 2011 « Soxteaching: Physics, Chemistry, Technology

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This entry was posted on November 28, 2011 by in Physics Honors, Projects and tagged , .


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