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Video:How to Build a Rube Goldberg Machine With Kids

with Jonathon E. Stewart

Looking for a fun and educational afternoon activity? Put your creativity to the test and try inventing your very own Rube Goldberg machine.See Transcript

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Transcript:How to Build a Rube Goldberg Machine With Kids

Hey guys - Jonathon Stewart here for About.com. Do you have a bunch of stuff lying around the house you're not quite sure what to do with? Got a task that needs to get done but you're tired of doing things the same old boring way? Why not follow in the footsteps of the late great Reuben Garret Lucius Goldberg, put on your inventor's cap, and try your hand at making a Rube Goldberg machine. Check it out.

Who Was Rube Goldberg?

Born in the late part of the 19th century, Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist and engineer, and became famous for his cartoons of contraptions that required a large number of convoluted and complex steps to perform a single simple task. The best thing about making your own Rube Goldberg machine is that there really aren't any rules to be followed - it's all up to you and your own creativity. But since even young Nikola Teslas need a little inspiration now and again, I'll at least give us a task to tackle, though definitely feel free to pick your own.

Rube Goldberg Supplies

Today we're going to give Duckie a birthday present, a baby avocado. To get going, here are a few things we'll need. One baby avocado, a length of spare tin, one smiley ball, a decent number of CD jewel cases, some twine, and a rubber band. Remember that you can use pretty much anything you want - the key is to create some sort of action that leads to another action that leads to another, until finally you get the desired end result. These can get pretty crazy when you get good at them, but for now, we'll keep it pretty simple.

Plan the Rube Goldberg

Start by designing your Rube Goldberg machine on paper, so that you have a plan to go by when you're actually making your machine. In this one, we'll start by flicking a rubber band at the smiley ball, which will roll out of the tree, down the length of spare tin, into the line of CD cases, which will domino all the way down to the last one, which will pull on the string that dislodges the baby avocado from the second tree, which will fall directly into Duckie's lap. Duckie's a pretty big fan of avocados, so hopefully this works.

Set Up the Rube Goldberg

Next, it's time to set up the real pieces. Remember that Rube Goldbergs depend on creating some kind of motion or action, so be sure to use forces like gravity to your advantage. Know that this may take a little time and tweaking - what you think is going to work on paper, doesn't necessarily work in the real world. Once you're all set up, it's time to put your Rube Goldberg to the test. Just put on your inventor's hat, and here we go!

Whether you ultimately get your machine to work is hardly the point at all - (hopefully it was just fun). But if you find you've got a knack for these things, you can always set your sites on the Super Bowl of Rube Goldbergs at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. I hear they've got some real smarty pants out there.

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