Hands-On STEM: RUBE Goldberg Convention and Contraptions
One of the best things about Living Science is the hands-on opportunities. This past Saturday, April 30, Living Science held its annual Rube Goldberg Convention. On Friday afternoon, 18 ninth grade students carefully assembled the contraptions that many of them had worked on all year. They anxiously waited their turns as the judges, Mrs. D (headmistress), Mrs. Lowery (chemistry), Mrs. Crose (engineering), Mrs. Fisher (physics) and the 12th grade Physics students, inspected each Rube. What were they looking for?
To receive full marks, a Living Science Rube Goldberg device must be at least ten steps long and demonstrate the following:
- 8 simple machines (including all 3 classes of lever)
- 7 forms of energy (thermal, radiant, acoustic, chemical, electrical, magnetic, mechanical)
- Newton’s three laws of motion
Furthermore, each student must offer a handout that explains how the device fulfills these requirements and present the Rube to the judges and the spectators.
Our ninth grade science class is Physical Science, and the students have been learning about these fundamental concepts all year. Designing and developing the contraption really helps the concepts come to life. As physics teacher Sandy Fisher points out, “What’s great about the Rube Goldberg is that students learn on more than one front. The experience of trial and error and trial and error and eventual success teaches them as much about the perseverance and creativity they need in engineering as it does STEM concepts.”
Family members often help students engineer their contraptions, so some are quite elaborate. This year, we had our first 100 percent Lego Rube, the first Rube started by a dog, our first air-powered car in a Rube, and a Rube that resulted in spin painting. Not every Rube works on Rube Day—but even then students are learning to do their best and accept the results with smiles. To see this year’s Rube Goldbergs in action, check out this video.
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