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Rube Goldberg Lab?

  1. Jun 20, 2016 #1
    Have any other teachers tried this? I put one together this last term with a reasonable amount of success. I was wondering who out there has also tried to do this and if so, what kind of parameters did you set?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 20, 2016 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Can you elaborate more on the lab you did?
  4. Jun 21, 2016 #3

    This was a class against another class competition
    kids were in groups of 4. Groups had to work together to accomplish the goal of the entire 'machine'
    they were to build a section each of the entire RGM. in other words they were building their own individual group machine that had to link up, like Voltron, to form a class size Rube Goldberg Machine.

    This was indicated, roughly, as a 1.5m portion of a wall. They were not allowed to touch the ground, but could use any material at their disposal. The idea was to construct the RGM out of simple machines only (pulleys, inclined plane, wedge, wheel/axles, levers, and screws). It had to involve at least 3 changes from Potential energy to Kinetic Energy and back. They had to provide enough energy at the end of their section so that the next group could start their own section. It also had a specific time (15 seconds) for the energy to travel across - no more no less. the final action was to ring a bell. no motors were allowed (unless constructed from simple machines as well).
    a final write up was required to document the machine they made, to calculate energies at a few points, try and work out how and how much energy was lost to friction, etc, and to explain how it worked.
    the whole thing was to be started with a single 0.5 cm metal ball.

    The kids were REALLY into it. pitting the two classes against each other added competitive energy.

    This is the handout made for them (it was not actually a wall but across some large windows that I ended up doing it. - which is where the references to the glass come from):

    You will be building a Rube Goldberg machine that will be used to Ring a Bell. This is a
    competition between the two physics classes. The prize? The winning class gets a bonus 3
    points to their project. The winning GROUP gets an additional 2!
    You will be put into groups of 3 or 4 – a total of 5 groups in each class. You will then be assigned
    a portion of the wall in the classroom to build on. You will be building one part of your class’s
    entire Rube Goldberg machine.

    Your machine must do the following:
    1. Transfer the energy of the system from one side to the next
     You can do this with a single object,
     or you can use a set of objects where one transfers its energy to the next, and
    so on.
    2. At the very end of your machine, your object must have a final Kinetic Energy or final
    change in Potential Energy of 2.00 J
     This is required so that the next group will have some energy to use to trigger
    their machine
    3. Be triggered by the previous group’s machine.
     Therefore all groups must work together so that each machine links together!
     Remember, if one part of the machine does not work then the WHOLE machine
    does not work and your class will not win. It will be better to help out any group
    that is having trouble during this week.
     Each machine must trigger the START of the next group’s machine.
     First group must develop a starting trigger
     Last group must develop a way to hit the BELL
    4. Each groups machine must (at least – it can do it more than this!) change the energy of
    the system from:
     KE PE KE
     PE KE PE
    5. It will take EXACTLY 15.0 seconds for your object or objects to move through your
    6. You must use AT LEAST 3 different simple machines
     wedge , lever , pulley , ramp/incline , screw
     You will receive extra marks for any extra machine used (that is a different
    machine from your other three)
    7. Your machine must be REUSABLE
     You should be able to use your machine again and again
     You should be able to set it up within 2 minutes after using it
    8. Your machine must be ALL MECHANICAL
     Use only simple machines with materials approved of by Mr. Gale
     No electronic or motorized parts (unless the motor is only made of simple
     Everything must be created by yourself from scratch – no bought machines
    9. Your machine should be INTERESTING and IMAGINATIVE
     Extra marks are given any machine that has a fun, interesting and imaginative

    Groups will be assigned randomly
    Section of the machine that you will be working on will be randomly assigned
    You are not allowed to touch the glass if you are building in front of the window. You will have hang
    your machines or build up from the window sill. If you have a solid wall to build against, you may
    attach your machine to it.
    You cannot build outside the area assigned to you.
  5. Jul 12, 2016 #4
    I was checking on this thread and sad to see no replies. Is it safe to assume that no other teacher has tried a rube goldberg type lab experiment/activity?
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