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Design and Build a Rube Goldberg Machine


We’ve all seen the crazy chain-reaction contraptions called Rube Goldberg machines, named for the cartoonist who originated them as a parody of modern life. Now you can explore the creative side of engineering by designing and building your own Rube Goldberg devices.

We will start with a broad look at the principles of mechanics and design and also go over measurement and hand-tool use. Then, students will design and build interactive machines where a simple push starts a chain reaction of pulleys, dominoes and so much more. As the week progresses, our designs will become more complex, culminating in a grand finale chain reaction on the last day. Ultimately we will see how these devices, which waste time and energy to accomplish simple tasks, can be a vehicle for engineering ingenuity and artistic expression.

What You Will Learn


Experience the creative side of engineering by designing and building Rube Goldberg devices.

  • Receive safety instruction.
  • Learn the basics of mechanics and thermodynamics.
  • Gain an understanding of what a chain reaction is and why we want to learn about this concept.
  • Design and experiment with mechanisms for transferring energy from one place to another.
  • Learn about hypothesis testing and the scientific method.
  • Take a historical look at failure and examine how failure has led to success.
  • Design, build and test a variety of Rube Goldberg machines.

Return to the Sally Ride Science Junior Academy website here.

Note: Upon successful enrollment of a section, students will receive a confirmation email from our Student Services team. This email will include a link to an authorization form that is required to be completed within 72-hours of enrollment. 

In response to COVID-19 health guidelines, we have restructured our in-person Junior Academy workshops as online courses. Contact us at if you have questions.

Course Number: ENG-90021
Credit: 1.50 unit(s)