WHITTIER, Calif. (January 5, 2018) —
Imagine a marble rolling down a toilet paper tube, knocking over a line of dominoes, tumbling over a cardboard ledge, careening down a gift wrap tube, releasing a simple lever, and tipping over a pitcher of water that spills onto the thirsty plants below.
You’ve just seen a Rube Goldberg invention. Rube Goldberg (1883 – 1970) was a Pulitzer-prize winning cartoonist, sculptor, writer, and inventor, who created machines (or, more aptly, contraptions) to complete simple tasks in a deliberately complicated way, just because he could. Sound crazy? Well, not so much, since this “make it more complex than it needs to be” idea requires planning, experimentation, knowledge of physical science principles, critical thinking, creativity, and more than a little patience.
Goldberg himself would have been proud of our 8th graders, who completed their Goldberg projects just before winter break. They used marbles, string, wire, cardboard tubes, dominoes, and other readily available materials. Working alone or in teams, they carefully designed their machines to ensure that each action would trigger the next in sequence until they achieved the desired result, including
Making a paper airplane fly from its hanger
Pouring milk on cereal
Lighting a Christmas tree
Turning on music
Popping a balloon containing the answer to a riddle
Typing a word
Not only were the students required to invent a machine, but also they had to explain the physical forces at work in their devices (magnetic, thermal, solar, electrical, etc.) and describe the transfer of energy and physical forces.
Broadoaks’ newly renovated classrooms on the Friends Campus are home to our 7th and 8th grades. We are extremely proud of our unique Middle School program. Its centerpiece is outstanding instruction by Broadoaks core teaching faculty, as well as by members of Whittier College instructors in Spanish, music, theatre, and philosophy.
The annual 8th-grade Rube Goldberg physics projects are part of the school’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) curriculum, which actually begins in preschool, where children try to figure out how to increase the speed of toy cars traveling down an incline.
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