Rube Goldberg Contraptions
Lesson Objective: Work in teams to design, problem solve, and build a simple machine
Grades 6-12 / Science / Engineering

Thought starters

  1. Notice how students have to plan and problem solve each "cause and effect" What kinds of thinking does a project like this foster?
  2. How could writing be integrated in the design process?
Hi! Thank you a lot for the ressources. They will be useful as my pupils will design their very first RG contraption.
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Thank you! We are about to embark on our first experience with Rube Goldberg for our school's Science Club. This is a terrific place to start!! MadScience actually offers an elementary division contest if anyone is interested.
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Hi Chelsea, I was able to download and open the lesson plans. Perhaps try with a different browser? Try again and let me know if you still have problems. Thanks!
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I am not able to access the Rube Goldberg Lesson plan (It says, "File type is damaged?") SOS:)
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So glad I found you again - the video was recently removed from youtube and I use this video of your students as exemplars for my classes every year. And you are such a great model for me. Thank you!!
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  • Great Lesson Ideas: Rube Goldberg Contraptions with Debbie Clark

    Clark: [00:00:08] I’m Debbie Clark. I teach at Wilmette Junior High, and

    Great Lesson Ideas: Rube Goldberg Contraptions with Debbie Clark

    Clark: [00:00:08] I’m Debbie Clark. I teach at Wilmette Junior High, and I’m an eighth grade science teacher. [00:00:12]

    [00:00:13] The lesson I’m going to teach today is a Rube Goldberg contraption. It takes several days to complete. This lesson starts with showing kinds clips of real Rube Goldberg contraptions. There are some really neat competition throughout this world and so you can show them some real-world examples. Purdue University actually has a competition that’s annual, and you can show them that. [00:00:39]

    [00:00:41] Then the second day, they’re going to bring things from home and start experimenting and come up with their purpose. Maybe even make a little blueprint of their design. [00:00:51]

    [00:00:53] They’ll start experimenting and that usually takes three, four, maybe five days of experimenting. [00:00:58]

    Child: [00:00:59] The first cause and effect will be the train will go up and hit the golf ball. [00:01:04]

    [00:01:04] The golf ball is going to roll down. [00:01:05]

    [00:01:06] It will hit the marker. [00:01:07]

    [00:01:07] Which will then hit the dominoes—hit the double marker which will hit the wooden ball into the hole. [00:01:12]

    Clark: [00:01:13] On the final day, the students set up their Rube Goldberg contraptions, and we showcase them for the whole class. Even on some days, I’ll invite other classes over to see the fantastic creations that they came up with. [00:01:24]

    [00:01:24] So here we are. We’re on a big day. We are going to do out Rube Goldberg contraptions. How long did I say I was going to give you today? Ten minutes. [00:01:32]

    [00:01:33] In order to be set up for today, what we need on the table is we need, of course, your Rube Goldberg’s set up. We also need your design sheet that has all your group members’ names on it, and your grade sheet so that I can come by and mark off the grade you’re going to get for today. Are we ready? Okay grade sheets out. Design out, and then I’ll bring you your timers. [00:01:56]

    [00:02:01] Thank you. Okay gentlemen what do we have going on here today? [00:02:04]

    Child: [00:02:05] So what the goal is is to get this marble into this cup. We’re going to start out by hitting the Newton’s cradle into that marble at the top. It’s going to roll down this ramp. Its’ going to hit the ping pong ball which goes down this Hot Wheels track. It’s going to knock over this small bucket which is going to go down these stairs, ramp and go into the bucket. [00:02:24]

    Clark: [00:02:24] Nice. [Applause]. Good job. Very good. You got it. Very good guys. [00:02:30]

    Child: [00:02:31] Our first thing is we put the domino through the plastic tube, or the marble so it hits the dominoes. Then that causes to hit the ball which goes down the ramp and hits the board. Then once the board gets knocked down by the ball, the brad collapses onto the piece of bread making a sandwich. [00:02:48]

    Clark: [00:02:51] This is what real scientists do every day. They problem solve, and so when the kids are getting ready to set these up, I ask them to think about what kinds of problems might you encounter. How can you change your design so that they will work better? So it will work better, because part of their grading process is whether or not they can get from start to finish without having to reset. [00:03:12]

    Child: [00:03:13] The causes and the effects were definitely the most difficult part to get one thing to do another thing into a length of altogether. [00:03:18]

    Child: [00:03:19] Okay the purpose of ours is to make lemonade. So Casey is going to pour the cup into here full of water, and it’s going to release a marble going down the tube, and it’s going to knock the powder into that beaker. This magnetic thing is spinning by a magnetic force, and it’s going to mix lemonade. [00:03:39]

    Clark: [00:03:39] All right lets go back girls. [00:03:41]

    [00:03:45] I graded the students on creativity and design. I graded them on whether or not it started and made it all the way to the finish. If it stopped halfway through, they got a certain amount of points. On the rubric, it shows them how far it has to get for them to get the different amounts of points. But mainly you’re looking for cooperation, problem solving, creativity and design. [00:04:05]

    Child: [00:04:11] The teamwork is most important part, because alone we couldn’t do anything, but the work—we worked it out and eventually it came to this. [00:04:18]

    Child: [00:04:19] So I was like thinking through things through like several steps so like different things can be done in different ways. [00:04:25]

    Clark: [00:04:25] What I have for you is a lesson plan with links, a design sheet and the grade rubric. [00:04:33]

School Details

Wilmette Junior High School
620 Locust Rd
Wilmette IL 60091
Population: 884

Data Provided By:



Debbie Clark
Science / 8 / Teacher


Teaching Practice

All Grades / All Subjects / Collaboration

Teaching Practice

All Grades / All Subjects / Planning

Teaching Practice

All Grades / All Subjects / Engagement

Lesson Idea

Grades 9-12 / ELA / Tch DIY