Rube Goldberg Engineering Phase 1

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SWBAT design a second, official draft of their Rube Goldberg machine based on their initial designs.

Big Idea

Students need a chance to sketch out their plan and create a detailed materials list for their machines. This lesson gives them that opportunity.


5 minutes

Teacher Tip: This lesson is part 3 of a larger Rube Goldberg project. To access the other lessons, see the Unit: Simple Machines. Students are creating an official design sketch, which includes labels and quantities of all materials, as well as a description of each step (noting cause and effects). It addresses MS-ETS1-4 as students are working to design a machine to solve a problem and will work to make it better after assessing problems and errors within their design.  You'll only need construction paper and markers for this lesson. 

To begin, I place each group's initial design sketch on their table along with the student notes sheet. Students will use the first 3-4 minutes of class to reflect on their designs and also identify some strategies that will help them be successful throughout the engineering process (i.e. working together, collaborating, following the plan, making revisions, etc.). 

After 3-4 minutes of individual students responding to the prompt, I ask students to share their responses with the class. While they read their tips, I record them on chart paper to keep posted throughout the lesson as a reminder for the students.  This helps students remember their goals for the group. 


20 minutes

After the students create their designs, they bring their sketches me to get "plan approval." Once accepted, I distribute their materials using their materials list and quantities.  Should they require more at any point, I will have them make the revisions to their sketch noting the amount they really need. 

Students follow the following procedure to complete this portion of the lesson:

Follow the steps below to start the engineering process.

  1. Sketch your design using your initial sketch and the template provided. Be sure to include labels!

  2. Get your design approved by the teacher.

  3. Gather your materials from the teacher.

  4. Start to build your machine according to your design sketch and procedure.

Students spend the next 5-10 minutes working with the materials and completing the building process, step-by-step.  They will not finish building in this lesson.  This time serves as a test session to work with the materials and start to understand how they feel, function, work together. The most important/necessary component of this lesson is the sketch. Should that work alone require the entire time, I'm ok with that.  If some students finish a quality sketch in a short time, they have the opportunity to begin building. 

 Rube Goldberg Engineering


15 minutes

The final portion of this lesson serves as an independent check-in/reflection on the design/engineering process. By responding to the following prompts on the notes sheet, students will have an opportunity to assess their contribution, progress and that of others. 

Were there any challenges your group encountered while building?

Is there anything else you need to build your machine?

Are there any changes you think you might need to make to your machine?

While students are responding individually, I do ask 2-3 students to share out in the remaining 3-5 minutes of the class period.  It helps other students to know someone else may be encountering the same struggles as themselves.