Sep. 22, 2020 -- Students in Greg Nachman’s Digital Engineering classes at Heights High each had to perform a simple task, like turning a page in a book, closing a laptop screen, turning off a light switch or watering a plant. But it was harder than it sounds.
The students had to design and create a working Rube Goldberg machine, a contraption that uses simple machines through a series of cause and effect actions that will then perform the intended task. Students in the introductory level had to use four actions each, while the upper level courses had to design eight.
Each student explored samples on YouTube, documented their brainstorming process, drew a detailed blueprint, and then built the actual machine. They then had to record a video of the machine working as planned to share with their classmates. This was discouraging for one student whose machine worked perfectly on the first try, which he naturally wasn’t filming, and then never worked again!
Every student reported having to revise some aspect of their original design, some as many as five or more times. But Mr. Nachman was overwhelmingly enthusiastic about what his students created. “I am just so impressed with what everyone’s accomplished,” he told his second period class.
Students were not to purchase any items for the project and instead used a wide variety of household items, including but definitely not limited to books, dominoes, tape measures, balls, cardboard boxes, cardboard tubes, acorns, old toys and lots of sports equipment including pool noodles, weights, medicine balls and a hockey stick.
Despite how challenging the assignment was, the students found it both enjoyable and valuable. According to Robert Pryor, “It really made me wrack my brain and problem solve using engineering.”
Enjoy the student video submissions here