Applying Newtonian Physics to Create Rube Goldberg’s
By: Gillian Dryjanski
In the true spirit of inventive, problem-solving scientists, the Clemente junior class concluded their unit on innovation and solutions by creating their very own Rube Goldberg machines. Inspirited by the famous cartoonist and his ludicrous designs, Rube Goldberg machines are complex, multi-step contraptions that accomplish simple tasks in the most complicated way possible. While Rube Golderg might have been famous for his drawings, Clemente students are famous for their real-life machines. Their task was simple: catch a “mouse” in the most convoluted way possible.
Students were issued this challenge and sent to work. The juniors combined their knowledge of simple machines and Newtonian Physics to draft, revise and execute their designs. They also predicted instances of Newton’s Laws in their materials, calculating how Newton’s Laws would be observed in their chain reactions. To help them catch the mouse, classes were given a vast array of materials, ranging from paper towel rolls to slinkies to dominoes. Over the course of a week, students labored over their machines to tinker and perfect the many moving parts to the assignment. The many uses of toilet paper tubes were discovered, as well as the benefits and downsides to dominoes.
In the end, the results were nothing short of impressive. Students applied their knowledge of simple machines and Newton’s Laws to create amazing products. Challenged to reach their goal in no fewer than 8 steps, each group came up with innovative, ingenious solutions to catch a mouse. Featured in the article is a video of one student’s Rube Goldberg machine, which trapped the mouse in a record 12 steps, relying on the power of dominoes and inclined planes to catch the mouse in a pulley. Additionally, the second video highlights a student’s ingenious use of wheel and axles, as well as inclined planes. These are just a few examples of the juniors impressive critical thinking skills and application of Newtonian Physics to create their Rube Goldberg’s.