Week Sixty-Eight: Engineering Mystery Bags and Rube Goldberg Machines1
December 11, 2017 by WittyLibrarian
Program Title: Engineering Mystery Bags and Rube Goldberg Machines
Target Age Range: Tweens, Grades 4-6
Program Length: 90 Minutes
Brief Description: Make a pom pom launcher and a marble run using only the supplies in a mystery bag. Afterwards, use your engineering skills to make a Rube Goldberg machine.
Large Index Cards
Large popsicle sticks
Regular Popsicle sticks
A variety of miscellaneous items to use in a Rube Goldberg machine (books, crates, cups, balls, whatever looks fun)
Note: As this is a building challenge program, you can switch out the supplies offered in each bag for supplies you have more readily at hand. The object can be the same, but the base supplies can change. Change it up and see what fun happens!
Photos for this blog post are from our second pass on this program, where we used random supplies to fill the bags and gave the instructions of “make something that moves.”
Print out instructions, and bag items for each challenge together.
- Introduction and explanation of program
- First Blind-bag challenge
- Second Blind-bag challenge
- Explanation of Rube Goldburg machines, and supplemental videos (see resources for selection choices)
- Free build Rube Goldburg machines
- End of program.
- Blind Bag Challenges
Inspired by Childhood101.com’s Create an Engineering Mystery Bag Challenge for Kids, we gave participants given paper bags filled with a variety of supplies and an instruction sheet with an end goal listed. As long as they used the items in the bag, they could do whatever design they wanted to reach the goal.
- Rube Goldberg machines
Inspired by both Brainpowerboy.com’s Play and Learn with Rube Goldberg Machines and Teachengineering.org’s Lesson: Rube Goldberg and the Meaning of Machines, this project had participants using a variety of materials to build elaborate mechanisms to deliver a ball from one end of the room to the other. They even used the chairs and tables as part of their machines.
Childhood101.com’s Create an Engineering Mystery Bag Challenge for Kids,
OK Go – This Too Shall Pass – Rube Goldberg Machine – Official Video
Oviham’s Pop a Balloon – Rube Goldberg Machine Video
GameTommy’s Small Rube Goldberg Machines Video
dimitri7777’s Rube Goldberg Ideas Video
Nathan Ong’s AP Physics C’s Rube Goldberg Machine 2014
Brainpowerboy.com’s Play and Learn with Rube Goldberg Machines
Teachengineering.org’s Lesson: Rube Goldberg and the Meaning of Machines
What we would do differently: This program ran fairly smoothly, and we experienced no major trouble. We would just advise to be extra diligent in watching the kids as they assemble their various projects. During the Rube Goldberg portion of the program, one participant decided to modify her pom pom launcher into a marble launcher. It was a very clever design, but one that ran the risk of harming another participant (using the force of a rubber band to propel a marble through a tube like a projectile). We praised her design, but declined letting her test it for safety reasons.
Adaption for older/younger audience: This is a great program for all ages. For younger kids, perhaps in grades 1-3rd, we would suggest focusing only on the pom pom launcher, and adding increased interest and challenge by gradually introducing new materials to build launchers with. For teens, either of the mystery bags would be fine, but introducing more elaborate materials would add an increased interest and challenge. Also with the teens, more time spent on group builds of Rube Goldberg machines would make for a full program. This program would also be great for a family science program, with families working together to build both a pom pom launcher and a marble launcher.
I love this STEM activity. I am trying to incorporate more STEM into my library programming and this post has given me some great ideas. Thanks for sharing.