Goldberg’s Gears

Goldberg’s Gears lesson plan

Make the simple complicated! Students design an invention in the imaginative style Rube Goldberg. Draw a self-operating chain reaction that shows students understand physics and mechanics.

  • 1.

    Reuben Lucius Goldberg graduated with an engineering degree from the University of California. After 6 months of working at a water and sewers department, he changed his career and became a cartoonist. His cartoons were pictures of complicated inventions that did simple tasks. For example, he might have a 12-step process to use a napkin at the table. He also used odd materials such as pets, food items, clocks, and gears in his inventions.

  • 2.

    Show some of Rube Goldberg’s famous cartoons of inventions to the class. What simple task does each accomplish? List the steps in the process. What equipment does Goldberg use? Which scientific principles---such as gravity, acceleration, momentum, and leverage---apply?

  • 3.

    Students choose a simple task. Students need to think about how they could do this task in 10 or more steps. On white paper, use Crayola® Colored Pencils to list the steps involved in the process.

  • 4.

    On more white paper, students use Crayola Twistables™, Washable Markers, and Colored Pencils to draw their invention. Label each part of the process with a letter, just like Goldberg did.

  • 5.

    Ask students which principles of physics and mechanics apply to their invention? Students write the principles on their drawing. Students explain how the invention works to the class.

Standards

  • LA: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
  • LA: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • LA: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade level topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.
  • SCI: Define a practical problem that can be solved through the development of a simple system that requires the periodic application of a force initiated by a feedback mechanism to maintain a stable state.
  • VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.
  • VA: Select and use the qualities of structures and functions of art to improve communication of ideas.

Adaptations

  • Possible classroom resources include: Inventions!: 30 Rube Goldberg Postcards by Rube Goldberg; Rube Goldberg: Inventions! by Maynard Frank Wolfe; Gizmos & Gadgets: Creating Science Contraptions That Work (& Knowing Why) by Jill Frankel Hauser; Build a Better Mousetrap: Make Classic Inventions, Discover Your Problem Solving Genius, and Take the Inventor's Challenge by Ruth Kassinger; Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Katherine Themmish
  • Students label their invention step sketches with a title and a description of the scientific principles that make it work.
  • Working in small groups, students investigate the workings of a machine or system that appears relatively simple. Students re-design the workings of this machine or system, increasing the steps to completion of a task. Students sketch their steps using Crayola Colored Pencils. Students create a 3-D model of their machine or system that displays each of the sketched steps. Students perform their chosen task for the class or video-tape the performance for class viewing.
  • Working as a whole class, have students select an invention to investigate. Do a large-scale sketch of the invention on a long piece of craft paper. Each student participates in creating and illustrative one step in the process.