Rube Goldberg Challenge

Eli Whitney Museum

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A peg board frame and base. Marbles. Ramps, pulleys, chutes, trap doors and miscellaneous parts.

The Challenge: release one marble that will trip and trigger events to free three other marbles. There can be a creative assessment: the narrative represents in the invention: Goldilocks and the Three Bears for example.

Long-term projects spark the melding of bookwork learning, practical application and creative genius. The “Rube Goldberg Challenge” and “Hill Quest” projects typically run for a few weeks fro the time students receive their kits to the concluding event. The projects are open-ended and teachers can vary the amount of classroom time dedicated to the project. Students enthusiastically apply science learned in the classroom to these creative endeavors.

Materials Provided by EWM

  • 1 Rube Goldberg board, 12" x 16"
  • 1 set of pine and luaun base pieces
  • 4 marbles
  • 40 pegs
  • 2 wooden spools
  • 3 pine levers
  • triggers
  • 1 pine wedge
  • 50 rubber bands
  • 1 film canister

The Challenge

Using a pegboard frame on a base, use ramps, pulleys, elastic bands, chutes, trap doors and miscellaneous parts to solve different challenges to move marbles from the top of the board to the finish area along the bottom.

Make the marble move slowly. What is the longest time you can keep the marble moving from the top to the bottom?

The Equipment used should not be restricted, but teachers should offer only rubber bands and pegs to students in the beginning at least. To get the marble to move slowly without stopping is difficult to perfect. The rubber band has to be positioned just the right distance from the wall of the board . Students will want to experiment with the number of ruberbands as well. Students will quickly determine that it is best to run the marble on a gradual incline back and forth across the surface of the board.

When the marble drops from one level to another, a significant amount of energy is released. Some very creative ways of controlling that energy can be found. If the marble falls onto a rubberband, it will bounce a few seconds. One ingenious solution has been to restrict the ball from moving onto the next ramp until the bouncing stops. This control is done by making the opening only a few millimeters bigger than the marble.

Have the marble activate a lever, a pulley and a wedge. Multiple marbles can be used.

One marble can fall onto a lever,which swings and releases another marble.

A marble can fall into a cup attached to a string with a pulley at the top. The cup will fall, raising the other side of the string. That string can release another marble or be attached to a lever or a wedge that releases another marble.

The wedge release is often the easiest to accomplish. When a marble is rolling down a moderate incline, it can store significant kinetic energy. That energy can be used to push a wedge, releasing another marble.

Build a trigger mechanism. Up to this point, the only energy in the system has been the potential energy of the marbles. Rubberbands can also be used to store energy. This energy is released by a trigger.

The classic trigger is a combination of levers and a wedge. Usually the levers are set up at 90 degrees to each other. The first lever 'grabs' the second one with a small hook (a wedge). The second lever is used to hold a rubberband under tension

Escapement Challenge: Triggers can release energy sources other than the gravity of the Marble. An escapement is used to regulate the release of this energy. An Escapement is such a device, which slows the release of energy down so it is more useful. The most common use of an Escapement is in mechanical watches. Your challenge is to return the marble to the top by releasing a counter-weight. Use an Escapement to slow now the motion.

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