Design Your Own Rube Goldberg Machine

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Engineer and cartoonist Rube Goldberg is famous for his crazy machines that accomplish everyday tasks in overly complicated ways. Learners use their understanding of simple machines to design and build their own Rube Goldberg machines that perform simple tasks in no less than ten steps. Then, learners build prototypes of their designs. Resource contains investigating questions to assess understanding and extend learning.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 11 - 14

Resource Type:


Materials List (per group of students)

  • examples of simple and complex machines (pulleys, hammer, ramps, bicycle, wheelbarrow, etc.)
  • Illustrations of Rube Goldberg Machines
  • assorted wood, metals, plastics and composites
  • foam core board and extruded foam insulation make good bases as they are light, sturdy, and easy to attach things to
  • miscellaneous construction materials such as wire hangers, cardboard, screws, wire, string, glue and tape
  • assorted tools, such as screwdrivers, saws, drills and hammers
  • poster paper, markers, crayons, pencils, rulers, etc
  • assorted discarded raw materials for prototypes
  • assorted materials that learners bring from home, which may be returned at project end
  • Student Activity Worksheet


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
      • Machines
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Research and Development
      • Invention and Innovation


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

Includes assesments for student learning:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Center for Engineering Educational Outreach, Tufts University

Source Collection

  • TeachEngineering


  • All rights reserved, Regents of the University of Colorado, 2013