Complex Answers for Simple Problems? Thanks, Rube Goldberg

Automatic soup cooler (

Albert Einstein once stated “Everything should be made as simple as possible but no simpler.” That’s nice, but not fun.
I have been a long time fan of Rube Goldberg. It is all about finding a round about solution to a problem. I like that. The Webster’s New World Dictionary defines Rube Goldberg as a comically involved complicated invention, laboriously contrived to perform a simple operation.

That’s called FUN!!!!

There is a certain charm and challenge in finding complex solutions. I remember building Revell plastic models of some of these solutions when I was 10 years old. Here’s one for giving a baby a bottle.

This can be quite motivating to challenge your students to design these ideas. Purdue University has sponsored a Rube Goldberg Machine Contest since 1949. In 2007, high schools were allowed to join in the competition. These competitions build young engineers which integrates with their STEM program.

The 2010 Rube Goldberg Machine Contest is challenging students to find a way to dispense an appropriate amount of hand sanitizer into a hand.

Here is a video of what some call the most complex Goldberg machine ever made. I don’t know about that, but it certainly takes up this person’s whole house so I wonder what this developer does for a real life.

Rube Goldberg has even made it big with the rock group OK Go. This video, This Too Shall Pass, is ingenious and more fun!!!

I just found a video about Gerberich’s Gadgetry that isn’t completely Rube Goldbergish but close enough to share here. Stephen Gerberich (originally from Iowa) posts his stuff on this Gerb – o – Matic website. He has displays in museums all over the country. A good introduction to his work is his motionclip.

Here is a link to his video archives.

Below is a 3-minute interview with the vodcast, Rocketboom.

Are you using Rube Goldberg-like projects with your students?
What have they created?
How are you integrating this with your curriculum?


What’s YOUR opinion?
Leave a comment and keep the discussion going.

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