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.)
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!
Stay tuned for more design challenges…