We will be sharing a STEM challenge children can do at home here every Friday. Complete the challenge and share your results on social media with @BramptonLibrary #kidsatBL! 

This week’s challenge: 

Build a Rube Goldberg Machine--or, a machine designed to complete a simple task in a very complex way using a series of chain reactions. 

Supplies you will need:

  • Objects that move (or have “kinetic energy”)
    • Examples: balls, roller skates, skateboards, fidget spinners, mechanical toys, etc.
  • Objects that could have stored energy based on their position (or have “potential energy”)
    • Examples: dominoes, elastic bands
  • Other supplies to control when and how the objects listed above move: cardboard, plastic cups, popsicle sticks, paper, tape, scissors, string

Tips to get started: 

Step One: Choose the task you want your machine to complete

Step Two: Set up your chain reactions

  • Choose whether you want to start at the beginning or with your end goal.
  • Build each step and test it along the way to make sure it will work when you try to put it all together.

Step Three: Try your machine! 

  • Even if you have tested each chain reaction along the way, your Rube Goldberg machine probably will not work on the first try. 
  • Learn from failed attempts to make small adjustments to your machine.

Helpful science terms:

Anytime something is in motion we say that it has kinetic energy.

  • This could be you when you run down the street, a bicycle when it is moving and even the wind or water in the ocean. Kinetic energy also includes anything that has rotation or vibrates.
  • When one object collides with another object, (like a baseball bat hitting a ball, for example) it transfers its kinetic energy to the second object. (The baseball bat transfers its kinetic energy to the ball and the ball then moves in a different direction, containing all of the kinetic energy.)

Potential energy is the stored energy an object has because of its position or state. 

  • A bicycle on top of a hill, a book held over your head, or a stretched rubber band all have potential energy.

If you liked this activity, you might enjoy these free resources from our digital library

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires (fiction picture book/ebook, recommended for 4-8 years)

Science Max: Rube Goldberg Machine (TV episode available on Kanopy, recommended for 4-12 years)

Many Ways to Move: A Look at Motion by Jennifer Boothroyd (non-fiction book/ebook, recommended for 6-8 years)

Resources for grown-ups:

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