Fifth graders at Breckenridge Elementary School have worked the past two weeks on their versions of a Rube Goldberg machine.
This type of machine is a deliberately complex contraption in which a series of devices that perform simple tasks are linked together to create a domino effect, in which the activation of one device triggers the next device in the sequence. The machine is named after the Pulitzer Prize-winning American cartoonist the late Rube Goldberg (1883-1970), who was known for his silly invention cartoons.
Studio 5 teachers Stacy Busta and Sarah Kratcha assigned the science project as part of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum. Students also learned what it’s like to work in a group, be part of a team, and to “disagree kindly,” Busta said.
The class was awarded a $500 grant from Doosan Bobcat to buy supplies for the machines. Students were directed to choose four simple devices to incorporate into their Rube Goldberg machines, such as incline planes, levers, pulleys, or axles. Students were finishing up their machines Monday, Feb. 5 when the Daily News stopped at the science lab.
Teams of three worked on their projects, testing and refining their engineered machines, which were made up of a variety of materials – wood, books, plastic ramps, cardboard tubes, rope and paper cups. The contraptions involved toy cars, marbles and dominoes – with ringing a bell the end result. Some teams used gravity, starting their toy car at a high level and ending at the table surface. Others used pulley systems and counterweights to move pieces from one device to another. One team started by filling a funnel with sand, which went down a tube and filled up a cup on a pulley.
Student Ava Presgrove said her team’s biggest challenge was trying to get the marbles to roll straight down the inclined plane without going everywhere.
“I enjoyed making the machine with my teammates because there were a lot of great ideas,” she said.
Those ideas were creative and different from one another.
Another student, Rheo Goulet, said the biggest challenge was making sure their cup hit the lever perfectly so it would go down.
“I enjoyed the challenges that we had when we were dealing with force and motion,” she said. “We had to have the right amount of force so our machine would work.”
In addition to completing a successful machine, students were tasked with presenting their machines to the second grade classes on Friday.
Busta explained why they challenge their students with giving presentations – it’s an important 21st Century skill they will use in the future.
“We teach skills such as making eye contact, speaking clearly and loudly, and responding appropriately to questions,” she said. “We present our Rube Goldberg projects to the second graders because they also have standards on force and motion, and because our students can help teach others.”