Rube Goldberg Confetti Launchers

For the last couple of weeks, my 6th graders have been learning about and constructing Rube Goldberg Machines.

This video served as our inspiration.

Although we didn’t have the time nor the space to construct anything this elaborate, we did enjoy the challenge of a Rube Goldberg-style Confetti Launcher!

Each pair/triad of students received a box containing the same materials: a small piece of cardboard, an index card, a pipe cleaner,half of an egg carton, two plastic cups, a plastic spoon, a straw, a large paper clip, a clothespin, a small rubber band, a toy monster truck, half of a paper towel tube, ten dominoes, two marbles, and “unlimited” use of plain white copy paper and masking tape.

Then they were issued the following requirements for the challenge and told to go for it!

  • The machine may require only ONE human input.
  • The machine must include at least 5 different events.
  • The machine must incorporate at least 3 different simple machines.
  • All of the materials in the box must be used.
  • The machine must successfully launch confetti at least 1 foot in height or distance.

Great conversations about force and motion, simple machines, and form versus function were overheard, along with observations of compromise and consensus, testing hypotheses, and recovering from “failures.”

Ultimately, the four machines were similar in fundamental ways, but distinctly different too. Three out of the four machines met the original criteria and launched the confetti at least one foot; only one machine required an additional human intervention in order to launch successfully on video. (Although with more time, we are certain that the issue could have been resolved.)

IMG_0782 IMG_0243 IMG_1199    IMG_0246


Some students earned their first badges for this challenge. One of the teams launched their confetti TEN FEET! And another team, once construction was completed, had more than three successful launches IN A ROW!

Confetti Badge 2 Confetti Badge 1


Overall, very impressive collaboration and engineering! You can view our videos here and see the rest of the photos here.

Stay tuned for more design challenges…


Governor’s School (year 2) : Success!

Just a quick post to share last week’s governor’s school experience. This was my second year to teach “MaKey MaKey Inventor’s Club” to students who have just completed 4th or 5th grade. We tacked the challenges listed below:

  • Conductivity Test
  • Interactive 3-D Art
  • Video Game Controller
  • Wacky Musical Instrument
  • Hands-Free Anything
  • Humans Only
  • “As Seen on TV” Invention and Infomercial

Humans Only Pacman Arrows

We had a blast, and I am still recovering from exhaustion! Here are a couple of videos of projects that I thought just rocked!

Silver Missile – interactive art

Pac-Man Controller – video game

Pan Flute – music

The Foiler – Definitely the best invention and infomercial project to come out of this class!

Enjoy! I’ll be back soon with thoughts on preparing for a new school year!

MaKey MaKey Musical Instruments

We did it! This week in 6th grade we finally finished the Wacky Musical Instruments using the MaKey MaKeys.  Thankfully we did not have to worry about dried-out Playdoh this time. (For our previous project, the video game controllers, several groups attempted to re-wet the “doh” with paintbrushes. This was only partly successful.)


All of the musical instruments incorporated standard conductive materials: empty cans, aluminum foil, pennies, paper clips and of course, humans. Building supplies included mostly cardboard boxes, foam meat trays, poker chips, straws and popsicle sticks, held together with “lots and lots of duct tape,” according to one student. They also nearly exhausted my supply of hot glue mini sticks.


Once again the gold star award for design goes to Kristen and Hannah! I love their thumb holes for staying connected to earth and the artistic flair with which they decorated the keyboard. Their video demo is here:  “Sounds of the Rainbow”