If you’re as old as I am, one of your fondest memories of childhood might be watching the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The scenes with the father’s inventions completely delighted me and motivated me to try to make some similar inventions of my own. These types of contraptions, series of simple machines that engage a domino effect where the movement of one simple machine triggers the movement of the next, are known as Rube Goldberg Machines.
Reuben (Rube) Goldberg was, among many other things, a cartoonist and inventor who drew whimsical cartoons of elaborate machines. In time, the machines in his drawings came to be known as Rube Goldbergs, an even have an entry in Webster Dictionary – Rube Goldberg: “a comically involved, complicated invention, laboriously contrived to perform a simple operation.” You can see some examples of his cartoons here.
Rube Goldberg, Inc., an educational non-profit, sponsors the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, and right now is the time to get involved in the 2018 competition. You can check out the goals and rules, as well as register, here. In a nutshell, members of a team work together to build a Rube Goldberg type machine that achieves a specified goal. This year, the goal is pouring a bowl of cereal.
RGI (Rube Goldberg, Inc.), also offers an online game inspired by the man’s works. While playing Rube Works, gamers build online versions of Rube Goldberg Games. You can play Rube Works on your computer or mobile device (App Store, Google Play, Amazon Appstore, etc.).
If you’re not up to a contest (it is a bit costly), consider introducing these captivating machines at home and having your children make them just for fun (and learning!). In lieu of actually building the invention, your children might at least draw cartoons of machines that someday could be devised. There are several books (by and featuring the work of Rube Goldberg) to use as guides, or just for entertainment. The only limit is their imaginations – and science. 😊
Just for fun - here's the breakfast machine in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and a modern version (which is a true Rube Goldberg).