Rube Goldberg

Rube Goldberg 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 in a chain
reaction. The category is named for American cartoonist and 
inventor Rube Goldberg (1883-1970).

Pertinent Information and Definitions

Please be sure to read the Entry Rules and General Requirements for all participants, available here

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

  • Note: If you make a complete contraption, please video record the sequence of it's operation and post it to an internet video site (such as YouTube) and provide the link to the video as part of your display!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The entry size is limited to one end (1/2) of a 72" x 30" table. A limited number of larger (approx. 4' x 7') floor spaces will be available (by reservation only). See the Entry Rules for details.

Entry, Review, and Judging

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

  • Entry rules and general requirements judging points
  • Sequential progression clearly labeled with indications of simple machines and physical forces
  • Diagram of operation is complete and understandable
  • If constructed, and/or videoed, sequence fully runs 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

The presented display will be evaluated for consideration as party of the Creative Arts award category (see section 8)


Please review the judging rubric for this category, and the entry rules and general requirements for other items that may be considered.

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