Rube Goldberg

Rube Goldberg Category Icon


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).

Pertinent Information and Definitions

Sequential Progression

This type of entry requires a sequential progression of cause-and-effect steps.

  • Starts with a single, simple initialization action
  • Continues through multiple steps which may branch and then merge again
  • Finally performs a clearly defined and (usually) simple task

Simple Machines and Forces

Entries in this category will make use of several types of simple machines and physical forces during the sequence of operation.

  • Simple machines include lever, wheel and axle, pulley, incline plane, screw, and wedge.
  • Physical forces include inertia, gravity, friction, stored energy, combustion, etc. (note that no flames are allowed on site, combustion should only be used diagrammatically).

Display (diagram), Documentation, and Construction

  • The entry should have a diagram (illustration) of the sequence from initial step to conclusion.
  • The entry may also have a complete construction or, partial mock-up of the sequence.
  • The entry should be documented with a written sequential procession from beginning to final step
  • Illustrations should clearly define the sequence of operation, including direction of force
  • If the entire sequence is built, it is recommended that a video of a complete, successful run be brought to the event for display to the judges and the public.

Entry, Review, and Judging

An entry in this category will be reviewed and judged on the following:

  • General requirements and judging points
  • Sequential progression clearly labeled with indications of simple machines and physical forces involved
  • Diagram of operation is complete and understandable
  • If constructed, device runs fully to completion with little to no outside intervention
  • If 'mock-up' portion of sequence is displayed, it should be an important, understandable piece of the whole sequence

Additional items which will affect the review and judging conclusions

  • Thematic construction, grouping of materials, task and initiation
  • Complexity of device, including multiple paths
  • Duration of progression – use of timing of operation as a consideration


Please review the judging rubric for this category for other items that may be considered.

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