Class Rube Goldberg Finale 2018


The class will build a Rube Goldberg Machine using GoGo boards and sensors, the Glowforge laser cutter, and the lab’s wood shop tools. The class was divided into 7 groups, each responsible for taking in a specific sensor input and activating the next sensor in a “wonderfully complicated way.”

My team was responsible for the last station, and therefore designing a finale for the Rube Goldberg. To start our station, a magnetic sensor would be activated.

Personal Learning Objectives:

  1. Use various wood shop tools
  2. Learn how to use GoGo boards and sensors
  3. Explore actuation methods


My team started by brainstorming various “steps” for our station and possible finales. Our ideas included:

  • GoGo board motor:
    • Winding up a string
    • Hitting an object
    • Cart driving forward
    • Spinning a Ferris Wheel
  • Middle steps:
    • Dominoes or cards falling
    • Bridge with rolling marble
    • Liquids pouring
    • Fire — Fun but probably a bit extreme
  • Finale:
    • Confetti cannon
    • Shooting a ball into a net
    • Billiards/golf ball rolling into a hole
    • Waterfall of post its

This this we started designing our station and iterating the design based on things available in the lab as shown in our diagram.

Station brainstorming

Ideas tried and tabled:

  • Water through tubing:
    • Tubing was too small to efficiently pour water into
  • Squirting water out of the T-Rex’s mouth:
    • Unable to consistently actuate
  • Water pouring:
    • Difficult to tip cup effectively
  • Scissors closing:
    • Tried pulling up with a string, dropping and object, and various other methods but all worked only part of the time
    • Water to Scissor Testing
      Testing original water pouring to scissor actuating idea.
  • Confetti Cannon:
    • Completely built and works; however, without scissors, difficult to release
    • 20180122_173425.jpg
      Testing release methods for Confetti Cannon

Team Final Design:

  1. Magnetic Sensor triggers GoGo board motor
  2. Motor winds string
  3. String pulls out stopper
  4. Stopper releases marble
  5. Marble travels down path and knocks dominoes
  6. Dominoes fall and knock weights off table
  7. Weights pull string with balloon into nails
  8. Balloon POPs and releases confetti!


Key Lessons Learned:

Design Related: Dreamy vs. Practical

My team started with a very complex set of ideas. I think this process was great to get a lot of high and dreamy ideas on paper. However, we should have focused less on forming a concrete path of ideas and more the brainstorming. This probably would have helped us get less attached to the dreamy whole product and instead be more willing to alter the pieces. That said, we did a good job of chasing the dreamy ideas, prototyping and identifying when we needed to remove a component or simplify the idea.

Opportunity to Teach:

I have some experience with laser cutter and wood shop. This project could have been a great opportunity for me to improve my teaching and education skills. To do this, I would have needed to understand my team and timeline a bit more from the start and think more thoughtfully about the team process and not just the project itself. Instead, after hours of working and parts not functioning, there was a “Get it done mode”. This is very useful at midnight when we just need a functioning product but less useful as a growing opportunity. Instead of just getting it done, group projects are a great opportunity to improve my teaching skills and help others gain new skills.

In the future, both at school and work, I plan to take the time to identity team member strengths and determine key areas where team members can learn from each other. If planned at the beginning, these learning opportunities can be balanced with the need to get a project done on time to do both effectively.



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