Enliven Physics Class with some Rube Goldbergs

Rube Goldberg is the king of contraptions.  In fact, his name is so synonymous with these useless machines that in 1931 the Merriam-Webster dictionary adopted the word “Rube Goldberg” as an adjective to describe the act of accomplishing something simple through complex means!  Goldberg, a trained engineer, began to draw his contraptions in order to poke fun at the many complicated inventions that were available at the beginning of the century, and at the round-about methods people divised for solving their problems.  His cartoons were published in numerous newspapers, but the drawings that he is best known for are those of Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts and his incredible machine creations.

Transient
Transient

Rube Goldberg is the perfect inspiration and motivator for any class on physics and/or engineering.  Instead of having the students focus on the small stuff, use contraptions as a basis for understanding the details of the science!

For those of you inventors out there, there is also an annual Rube Goldberg Contest.  Currently, the contest is only open to college and high school level participants, but a middle school competition is in the works.  There is also Fantastic Contraptions, a free online game that challenges you to build the most complicated of machines to accomplish the simplest of  goals.  Kids can use various types of wheels, rods, and water to build the perfect contraption, and when they finish they can even save your creations and share them with their friends/family.  Seems like the perfect inspiration if you ask me ...