Category Archives: Rube Goldberg Machines

Physics Extra Credit: Rube Goldberg Machines 2011

Just like last year, I decided to offer a year-end extra credit assignment for my students, an option for which was to make a Rube Goldberg machine. I’m sure you know what it is even if you haven’t heard the name – they are those machines where dominoes fall over which hits a boot which knocks over a bucket, which pours water on a cat, which then wakes up and screeches, hitting into a ball perched on a ramp, which goes down the ramp…. etc etc until it performs a simple task in the end like lighting a match or pressing the button to make toast. My two favorite ones that you may have seen are the Honda Cog and OKGO’s video for the song This Too Shall Pass (same band who did the badass treadmill video too). The ones my students made last year were also pretty amazing (check out this one, this one, or this one).

Well, quite unsurprisingly, this was a big hit this year too and I got even more student made machines than last year. Check out my compilation of the five projects I got (below). Each one plays once normal speed and then once half speed.

A few notes:

  • One of the machines is designed to spray some perfume in our Physics classroom because, due to some unfortunate engineering flaw that runs some piping underneath only one small part of the building, the room often smelled like raw sewage. On some days it was just a faint reminder that something wasn’t right, and on others it was wander-the-halls-to-find-a-new-classroom worthy, and then other days it would flare up right in the middle of a test or quiz and we would be stuck to live with the smell until the period was over.
  • The first video ends with a light shining on a sign that says “What Baby?!” The student that made it is quite a space cadet sometimes. One time in class, someone was joking (and I can’t recall why they would be joking about this) that I was pregnant and we were witty bantering back and forth. After like 2 minutes of this, the student looks up from what he was doing (which should have been nothing, class hadn’t started yet) and said “What Baby!?” Kind of hard to explain, but it was absolutely hilarious. That became his tagline for the rest of the year. I would say it whenever he would do anything ridiculous, so I was pretty pumped to see him include it in his video.
  • We have finals starting today, so while the students should have been poring through their Physic book, they were spending hours setting up dominoes so that they could knock their Physics book over.
This project is one of the things that I will miss when I transfer fully over to the math department next year. Maybe I could find a way to relate it to Calculus…
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Physics Extra Credit: Rube Goldberg Machine #3

This is my favorite one, really hilarious. This is from two of my absolute favorite students, both of whom have very good (and somewhat devious) senses of humor. I couldn’t post the whole video because the first part is a bit PG-13 (shows a student on the toilet) and didn’t think it would be 100% appropriate to put that on the internet. It’s too bad because they yell at each other in Arabic for about a minute, and I would have loved for you guys to see that. I guess I’ll explain in words.

THE SETUP: One student is stuck in the bathroom and the toilet paper has run out. He calls to his friend who is studying so hard for his Physics test the next day that he doesn’t want to get up to help his friend on the toilet. After a long fight in Arabic, instead of getting up, his friend simply sets the machine in motion to deliver toilet paper to the bathroom. Sweet.

Physics Extra Credit: Rube Goldberg Machine #2

A machine to blow out the candles on your birthday cake. The person blowing you hear in the background is because it didn’t exactly work.

Physics Extra Credit: Rube Goldberg Machine #1

EXPERIMENT: I decided to offer a year end extra credit assignment for my students, an option for which was to make a Rube Goldberg machine. I’m sure you know what it is even if you haven’t heard the name – they are those machines where dominoes fall over which hits a boot which knocks over a bucket, which pours water on a cat, which then wakes up and screeches, hitting into a ball perched on a ramp, which goes down the ramp…. etc etc until it performs a simple task in the end like lighting a match or pressing the button to make toast. My two favorite ones that you may have seen are the Honda Cog and OKGO’s video for the song This Too Shall Pass (same band who did the badass treadmill video too).

RESULTS: Absolutely. Hilarious. This is the first of a few I will post. Notice in this one that the original plan was to have their guinea pig start the machine, but it wasn’t being very cooperative.