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Rube Goldberg Family Challenge

On Tuesday 1st December students in years 7 –10 and Year 12 will have an off screen afternoon from 13:30 to complete a family Rube Goldberg challenge. 


Students will be able to complete the challenge independently, but we encourage siblings to work together and parents to get involved as far as possible. Families with students in other year groups will sadly not be off timetable but are more than welcome to participate and we would thoroughly enjoy seeing their ideas too! 

Rube Goldberg was an American Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, sculptor, author, engineer, and inventor, and his work is a classic example of the melding of art and science. Goldberg began his career as an engineer, and later became a cartoonist who drew elaborate illustrations of contraptions made up of pulleys, cups, birds, balloons, and watering cans that were designed to solve a simple task such as opening a window or setting an alarm clock. Interestingly, Goldberg only drew the pictures, and never built any of his inventions. However, these pictures have since served as inspiration for makers and builders who want the challenge of making wild inventions to solve everyday problems. 

For inspiration, here are some examples of elaborate Rube Goldberg machines:  

How to Pass the Salt While Maintaining Proper Social Distance

 The Page Turner | Rube Goldberg | Joseph's Machines 


The Challenge 

Families will need to create a Rube Goldberg machine to: do one of these things 

  • get a ball in a cup; 

  • operate a light; 

  • close a door.  

The machine must last for a minimum of 15 seconds and you can only touch it once. You must ONLY use household items (no specialised mechanical equipment) and students will need to plan their machine and the items required before you start! 

Even those working with adult supervision must NOT use any items which could be dangerous such as candles or knives. 

I strongly recommend filming every attempt – just in case the machine works and you miss it! 

Collaboration Extension 

Families may work together remotely by planning machines where a second one begins where the first one stop. For instance, one family could end their video clip with a ball rolling into a tube and the next family could begin with the ball rolling into a tube. 

More detailed instructions about the Rube Goldberg challenge can be found on Global Campus and when complete, the students can submit their work to be shared across all of the Nord Anglia schools.  

Alexandra Hands

Deputy Head Pastoral