• STEAM Grade 3: Rube Goldberg Machines

    3-PS2-1. Plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence of the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces on the motion of an object.

     Part 1: Rube Goldberg


    Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) was a cartoonist famous for his drawings of complex inventions that did simple things. 

    Read his biography here.

    Student article.

    Part 2: Rube Goldberg Machines


    Rube Goldberg machines became famous for their absurdity. They were complex machines that completed simple tasks in extremely complicated ways.

    Look at this SLIDESHOW about the artist and his machines. 

    Part 3: Analyze Machines


    Look at the image. How does this work? Discuss with a partner. Go through each step. Identify the simple machines involved.

    Machines to examine

    More Samples of Rube Goldberg Machines to analyze. 

    Rube Goldberg Official Site 

    Part 4: Machines Inspired by Rube Goldberg


    Machines like those made by R. Goldberg:

     Part 5: Try it!


    Online Trials: Dynamic Systems. Use this site to practice your skills; think about the transfer of energy. Keep working until you get the ball in the bucket on all the levels.

     Part 6: Design Loop


    Review the design loop model:

    Design Loop Model


    RG Design and Plan

     Part 7: STEAM Design Challenge



    A Rube Goldberg machine is a machine designed to perform a simple task in a complicated way. Simple machines must be used when building the RG prototypes.



    Your group will make a working prototype of a Rube Goldberg machine to solve a simple, everyday problem of your choice.

    For example:

    • Pour water into a cup

    • Shut off an alarm clock

    • Put toothpaste on a toothbrush

    • Hit play on your iPhone

    • Put coins into a bank

    • Ring a bell



    • Your group must develop a materials list of mostly recycled items. 


      • Machine must include at least 3 simple machines

      • Machine must last at least 3 seconds

      • Machine must have at least 5 steps

      • Machine must perform task at least once (out of 3 trials)

      • Machine must be freestanding

      • Must have a title



      • Machine can’t be larger than 3 feet by 3 feet.

      • Must be able to be carried by two people.

     Part 8: Reflection 


    Think about the following questions:

    • What worked and what didn’t work?

    • What did you need to change  as you went through your plan?  Why?

    • How could you improve your model?

    • Did you solve the problem?  How well did it work?

Last Modified on February 3, 2020