Rube Goldberg Machines

Rube Goldberg machines — you may not be familiar with the quirky name, but you've surely seen these fun contraptions that complete a simple task through a series of incredibly complicated chain reactions. Some of our favorite childhood memories were playing games, like Mouse Trap and Domino Rally, derived from the concept. Keep your child's mind stimulated and active through the summer months by creating your own Rube Goldberg at home with everyday materials.

Rube Goldberg machines are named after the cartoonist and inventor from the early 1900's. They are often silly and overly complex, but always creatively inspired. Brainstorm with your kids on what your Rube Goldberg machine is going to do. This can be as simple as dropping a ball into a basket, flipping a light switch, or rolling a ball into some bowling pins. More complex ideas can include turning on a fan, bursting a balloon, or flicking a fly swatter.

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Once you got an idea in mind, pool together household objects and toys — dominos, aluminum cans, cups, cd cases, and marbles all work well — and brainstorm on how to make your Goldberg machine do its task. You can draw it out, or just build things on the fly and see how they could work together.

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This PBS Kids site has some great ideas you can use for building such contraptions, with several children's comments on what they built and made. You can also see what these 6th-8th graders did for inspiration.

It's sure to be a fun and stimulating activity that you can scale to your desire, whether it be a multi-week summer activity or something you do in an evening. Try a Rube Goldberg out, and promote the fun of science. We'll leave you with what has to be one of the most complex Rube Goldberg's ever filmed — proving that some kids never really grow up.

(Images: 1. Flickr member eedrummer. Licensed for use under Creative Commons 2. Seize the Play 3. Chris Perez)