The juniors took on a challenge in Physics as part of their last unit: how do you trap a mouse? On the surface, the task sounds simple. However, the juniors were charged with trapping a mouse in at least ten interactive steps, using materials such as dominoes, marbles, toy cars, giant playing cards, rubber bands and more. As the final project for this last Physics unit, the Clemente Wildcats constructed amazing Rube Goldbergs, fulfilling Goldberg’s legacy of a kooky, creative designer who made any simple task into an amazing process.
The unit focused on simple machines, particularly inclined planes, wheel and axles, levers and pulleys. Prior to building, students learned about what each machine does and where we see them in our everyday lives, which allowed them to use that understanding later. Moreover, they performed mini-challenges that asked them to answer specific prompts; this prepared them to do the bigger task of catching a mouse in as many steps as they could.
While the concepts themselves are straightforward, students had to study and understand the workings and limitations of each machine in order to build their extensive Rube Goldberg. Perhaps more importantly, in applying this knowledge, they also had to demonstrate an incredible amount of persistence and perseverance. For many students, the number of times they accidentally knocked over their one hundred dominoes should have made them give up, but Clemente juniors were not going to let the catching of a mouse get the better of them. As the students worked for more than a week to design, execute, and revise their designs, they worked through numerous obstacles to complete the project.