You know how you get an idea in your head about the way a certain thing is going to be, and you get really attached to that idea, and you put a lot of time towards it, but it’s just not working, but you don’t want to let it go, because you want so badly for it to work out just how you thought? Yeah. I had a vision. A RUBE GOLDBERG VISION! We would create a project worthy of an OK Go video. We would start upstairs, transferring motion down the stairwell to the basement. We would have pulleys and wood and metal and all sorts of crazy contraptions. The kids would be so incredibly engaged they would wake up begging to work on it. They would become engineering geniuses, inspired to now go forth and invent the technology needed to solve all the world’s environmental problems. In short, this project would change the world.
Here’s the reality: Ian is swamped with his own Rube Goldberg project on his Science Olympiad team. Regionals are coming up, and the boy has a lot of ground to cover in the coming weeks. Actually, as noted in an earlier post, he’s been under a lot of deadlines, and I’m trying to ease things up for him a lot, opening up time so that he can do quality work on his existing projects. Though the falling pendulum was Eva’s design, the size and types of materials were a bit daunting to her. It was clear to me that even with (or perhaps because of) Ian’s involvement, Eva wasn’t taking as much initiative as I had hoped. But without Ian as a teammate, I was afraid that she would simply follow my instructions, and I didn’t want that.
We did what we always do in situations like these: we formed a huddle ’round the classroom table. We concluded that the pendulum, though not a part of a larger machine, was still an excellent project, providing tons of problem solving opportunity. We decided to give it a loving farewell and take a hammer to it. (And don’t we all kind of love destroying things?) Ian will continue his work with Rube through his Science Olympiad team, so that’s set. Then we turned to Eva. “Eva,” I said. “How would you like to build your very own Rube Goldberg by yourself with legos?” Her eyes lit up. The wood and nails and saws and whatnot were simply out of her reach. She didn’t know how to use those things to create what she envisioned. But legos… this is a world she understands.
We decided to require five parts to her Rube Goldberg (this had been our goal for the larger Rube as well, building one component per week). I would answer questions, but really leave the design work to her. In just one week, she finished the entire project! I helped a bit with the pulleys, and then did some troubleshooting with her, but this was truly Eva’s project. Changing the materials was key, and I was pleased to be reaffirmed in our decision to shift the game plan.
In tomorrow’s post, I’m going to talk more about the Rube Goldberg process and include more photos of each component. But what you’re wanting now is the video of course! Here’s Eva to walk you through it:
And here’s the machine in action!
And one more time from another angle: