I was put to a challenge by General Mills, my sponsor, to make a Rube Goldberg Machine.
Wait, what’s a Rube Goldberg Machine?
Yeah, I didn’t know either. I had to do my research.
Basically, its lots of simple machines put together to do a simple task very elaborately. One machine is manually put into action, which causes the next to start, and the next, and so on, a domino effect of machines. Which eventually does something in the end.
We’ve done activities surrounding simple machines, such as the homemade pulley, in the past. But nothing to this extent.
Beware, if you’ve seen those on YouTube, you may be disappointed by my attempt. Its nothing that extravagant!
Rube Goldberg machines would be much better matched for boys and girls 9 years and up, that have a love machines. My boys have a love of machines, don’t get me wrong. They’re just not quite old enough to understand the cause and effect on their own. So my husband and I did a little bit of prepping with some added input from the boys. And George loved to be the one to set off the machines to watch them all go.
This was definitely a learning experience of cause and effect for the kids!
But, man are these machines fast! Its hard to catch it all!
General Mills supplied us with some goodies. A big box of Mega Bloks and lots and lots of cereal boxes. free cars made out of Mega Bloks (and supplied us with them as well)! Featuring Hello Kitty or Power Rangers. Cars can be found in specially marked boxes of cereal, including Honey Nut Cheerios, Reese’s Puffs, Cocoa Puffs, Lucky Charms, Golden Grahams and Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
We took the challenge and made a Rube Goldberg machine pour the boys a bowl of cereal.
How did we do it?
Well, it took a lot of trial and error and a lot of questions to figure it out.
We started with the end.
How can we get a box of cereal to dump into a bowl?
We made a balance using the cereal box. Poked a pencil through the box and balanced it on two supports made of Mega Bloks.
We tied down the back of the box to the table using tape and yarn. By taping the yarn to the bottom of the box and securing the other end on the table with the weight of Mega Bloks. This was the trigger. Something had to move those blocks to let go of the string which would then allow the box to pour the cereal into the bowl on the other side.
What could move those blocks?
Those Mega Blok cars can!
But, what can make them move to do that?
Oh yes, they can slide out of a cereal box like a ramp! But how do I get the cars to stay put, and then move? The box needs to be flat and then tilted to a ramp.
Note: I used two different types of Mega Bloks cars in the design; you’ll see a larger car, and a smaller-sized car. Select Big G cereal boxes will feature the smaller “Micro Blok” version.
What can make the box into a ramp?
Something needs to lift the back side or drop the front side.
We added the box to a empty tub of oatmeal.
We just taped it in place using Scotch Tape. It balanced on the top of the tub, with the front end of the box hanging out front. The back end was heavier because it was filled with the Mega Bloks cars ready to ramp down!
This was the biggest struggle of the Rube Goldberg, getting the cars in place and balancing the box.
We (and when I say we, I mostly mean my husband for this part) also taped the tub onto the table to keep it mostly stable in place. We wanted it to move a bit, but not too far. Added Mega Bloks on the back side helped secure it in its spot.
All it needed was something to push it just a tad to tip that box forward to let the cars go sailing out to push aside those blocks to trigger the balanced cereal box to pour cereal into the bowl.
What can just slightly nudge the balanced box?
A row of cereal boxes set up as dominoes did the trick.
But what can cause them to tip over?
And that’s where the boys had some fun building a tower of Mega Bloks and ramps.
We ended up setting up three ramps with three large cars (not included in the cereal boxes from Big G) from the Fast Tracks Rescue Team Mega Blox Set (affiliate link in case you’re interested), each pushing each other. This was George’s favorite part.
At the end of the ramps, the car ran off and bumped into a pencil (actually two pencils that we taped together to make it long enough) that in turn pushed that first cereal box that set off the domino effect.
George was the trigger to start the whole series of machines.
We used many ramps and levers in our Rube Goldberg Machine.
The supplies we ended up using for our Rube Goldberg Machine:
- Cereal Boxes
- Mega Bloks
- Large Mega Blok Cars
- Small Mega Blok Cars
- Empty oatmeal tub
- 3 Pencils
The chain reaction that happened:
- George pushed car #1 down the ramp
- Car #1 bumped car #2 down the ramp
- Car #2 bumped car #3 down the ramp
- Car #3 bumps the propped pencils
- The propped pencils pushed over the first cereal box
- The cereal box knocked over a Domino line of cereal boxes
- The last cereal box nudged the balanced cereal box with the cars in it
- The balanced cereal box tipped forward
- The cars races out of the box to the ‘finish line’
- At the finish line, the cars bumped the Mega Bloks out of the way
- The Mega Bloks released the string
- The string released the balanced cereal box of cereal
- The cereal box tipped and poured Honey Nut Cheerios into the bowl
Phew! And that all happened in less than 5 seconds. Here’s a short video of it happening:
Tips for making your own Rube Goldberg Machine:
- Make it backwards, start with the end goal (pouring a bowl of cereal) and work backwards to the beginning.
- Save items from recycling to use in the Rube Goldberg Machine (such as toilet and paper towel paper tubes, oatmeal tubs, egg cartons)
- Be inspired! Look at other Rube Goldberg Machines for ideas
- Incorporate young kids where possible. They may not be able to brainstorm up how to do it, but if they’re apart of building it, they’ll be even more excited with the outcome
- Expect it to fail, over and over again. Then adjust something and do it again. And still expect it to fail again even if it once was successful
Do you know anyone that would love to make their own Rube Goldberg Machine?
Share this with them, go on!