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Rube Goldberg Family STEM Night

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

On Monday March 13, Delran Families participated in our Rube Goldberg Machine Family STEM Night. Registrants were asked to bring at least one piece of “junk” for each participant to use when constructing this evening’s collaborative projects.

We began with introductions to Lockheed Martin staff who would be assisting students and answering questions throughout the evening. We met Allan Croly, Senior Program Manager, Tiffany Powell, Integration & Test Engineer, and Julia Ma, AI Engineer, and learned a little about each of their career pathways. Throughout the evening, they engaged with families and STEMbassadors to answer questions and provide encouragement as we created. We appreciate our partnership with Lockheed Martin, which includes grant funding and volunteer assistance.

After our introductions, we watched a video to show very complex Rube Goldberg Machines, which introduced us to tonight’s topic.

Who was Rube Goldberg and what is a Rube Goldberg Machine?

Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist and engineer whose cartoons would depict everyday tasks performed in very complicated manners, such as a self-operating napkin machine. Rube Goldberg Machines use chain reactions of simple machines (wedge, screw, lever, wheel and axel, inclined plane and pulley). These are often combined into very complex machines to perform simple, rudimentary tasks. Each stage of the reaction, or “event,” will trigger the next upon its completion. These events will trigger subsequent chain reactions until the final event. It is a very creative way to problem solve and showcase engineering and physics!

To find out more about Rube Goldberg Machines, or to learn more resources and projects to do at home, The Rube Goldberg Institute for Innovation and Creativity has many ideas.

How did we build our Rube Goldberg Machines?

Using a variety of both recycled materials and other household items such as baskets, Dominoes, and string, students created small-scale Rube Goldberg machines to elaborately solve one of two problems: catch a mouse or pop a balloon.

Other unique items used by participants ranged from racecars to basketballs to even a few sneakers!

What did we learn from creating a Rube Goldberg Machine?

While simple and compound machines are created to make tasks easier to complete, Rube Goldberg Machines certainly complete tasks with artistic flair, humor, complexity, and physics. We experimented with a variety of simple machines and how we could combine them to create complicated chain reactions. We were able to creatively problem solve working collaboratively in teams as well as observe how mechanical tasks such as pushing and pulling can be combined to form chain reactions.

Our STEMbassadors, STEM teachers, and staff from Lockheed assisted participants throughout the activities. An event attendee, Janine Kilbride, commented on the evening, volunteers, and the hands-on learning activities:

“I just wanted to reach out with a “Thanks” for last night’s event. It was truly awesome to have Delran graduates be part of the event and show how their love of STEAM started and where it took them! The kids were fantastic! Our youngest (will be 5 this week) had the extreme pleasure of working directly with Maddie. Typically, my husband or I would be very hands on with him during this type of event. However, Maddie was great with him! She helped him create his own mouse trap that he was so proud to show off. She really helped him to create and asked him questions to discover on his own. She is AWESOME! [Additionally,] our older son (7 years old) came home and built another RG machine right away and was very excited to start reading the book provided. We really appreciate these events and how it encourages families and kids of all ages to work together. You are doing something very special!”

This evening’s events were led by Mrs. Hutchinson and Mrs. DeMichele. Lockheed Martin staff were also present and were assisting with guiding students with their Rube Goldberg machines as well as to answer questions about their careers to both participants and STEMbassadors. Each family was also provided with a copy of Rube Goldberg and His Amazing Machine by Lockheed Martin and a swag bag of goodies like pins, stickers, and contest information by the Rube Goldberg Institute. Thank you!

Thank you also to all of our families who participated, to our STEM teachers and STEMbassadors for help and encouragement, and to Mrs. DeMichele and Mrs. Hutchinson for leading another exciting evening. Check out video reels of some of our machines in action on our Instagram page and more upcoming programs on our Events tab!

More Machines in Action:

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