Beacon Lesson Plan Library

My Crazy Contraption

Jo Ann Parsons


Students design, build, and present a “Rube Goldberg Device,- identifying five simple machines and all energy transfers that will take place.


The student understands how knowledge of energy is fundamental to all the scientific disciplines (e.g., the energy required for biological processes in living organisms and the energy required for the building, erosion, and rebuilding of the Ear


-Materials will vary and are supplied by students themselves. (Old toys, screwdrivers, hammers, pliers, household gadgets, straws, balls, string, buckets, etc.)


Take students to the computer lab and research Rube Goldberg. A good site is listed below, but there are many. Allow students to discover who Rube Goldberg and give them a chance to look as several of his cartoons. Prepare an instruction sheet with directions and grading criteria. Be ready to help students with problems they will face while building their machines. Encourage students to ask for suggestions and opinions from their families and friends. Stress that students must complete the building process themselves.


1. Students visit computer Lab and research Rube Goldberg and his incredible machines.
2. Students are assigned to design their own Incredible Contraption, which contains five different examples of simple machines and works to completion without intervention.
3. Students spend time in class sketching out their designs and labeling the individual simple machines.
4. Students are given two- three weeks to build their devices and bring them in for presentation , or they may bring in a videotape of the device to present to the class.
5. When presenting their machines, students must name the device stating its purpose, identify five different types of simple machines present, and identify all energy transfers. Safety Rules- All machines must be safe. Flames and projectiles must be controlled and approved. All chemicals must be non-hazardous. No animals please.

Your lesson should detail how you:
* Gain attention: I start the lesson with website research on Rube Goldberg and his cartoon contraptions. Discuss the purpose of each machine and then identify examples of simple machines to be noted in each device.
* Present objective: To give students -hands on- experience with the process of scientific inquiry by having them design and build a contraption containing five simple machines and a series of observable energy transfers. This project serves to deepen mathematical connections to science.
*Relate to present knowledge: students use measurment techniques to build their devices. This activity relates to Motion and Force concepts and serves as an introduction to the -Work- concepts.
* Engage students in learning- Students have complete control over the design and construction of their device.
* Provide for practice: Students build individual simple machines in class, for example, pulleys out of thread spools; incline planes out of straws; and hinges out of cardboard.
* Provide feedback- Students are given Rubric at the beginning of the project and graded by that rubric. Students present machines to class and are given immediate feedback by the class response. Students are provided a grade sheet with rubric and points awarded at the completion of the Project.


Assessment Rubric included.

Informally assess student progress on device sketches and the presence of five different simple machines. Students discuss in-groups the problems they are facing and suggest possible solutions. They are encouraged to share their ideas and work together to find solutions for each individual’s machine.


Students could present their projects to elementary school classes or display the projects in the Library.
Use activity Leonardo's Mysterious Machines. (see web site)

Web Links

Web supplement for My Crazy Contraption
Rube Goldberg

Lesson PLan
Marvelous Machines

Web supplement for My Crazy Contraption
Project Smart

Attached Files

Self Assessment Questions attached.     File Extension: pdf

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