Rube Goldberg

Rube Goldberg Category Icon

Please note: We are in the process of updating our Category Descriptions and Rubrics for STEM Expo 5  (March 7, 2015) - these should be updated by December 1, 2014.



A Rube Goldberg assembly, contraption, invention, device, or apparatus
is a deliberately over-engineered or overdone machine that performs a
very simple task in a very complex fashion, usually including a chain
reaction. The expression is named after American cartoonist and 
inventor Rube Goldberg (1883-1970).


A successful Rube Goldberg entry must have the following:

  • A minimum of 10 'cause and effect’ steps
  • Inclusion of three simple machines (e.g. lever, wheel and axle, pulley, incline plane, screw, wedge)
  • Written sequential procession from beginning to final step
  • Submission can be an illustration, collage or construction; or a combination of the fore-mentioned

Additional judging will be based on the following:

  • Device has a clearly identified task
  • Initialization of sequence is simple and straightforward
  • Use of several types of physical forces (inertia, gravity, friction, combustion, stored energy. etc.
  • Operational procession clearly labeled in alphabetic sequence
  • Simple machines identified correctly with indications of direction of force
  • Illustrations or collage (if used) clearly define operation of sequence
  • Detail of illustrations or collage show different views of the steps in the sequence and of the timelin
  • Device's construction has specific theme, or specific grouping of materials are used in constructions
  • Device runs fully to completion with little or no outside intervention
  • Complexity of device
  • Thought was given to reset time and effort required
  • Multiple paths of events occur and rejoin

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