Everyday Tasks, Simple Machines, and Engineering Projects
In his second "Road to the Science Fair" blog entry, Chicago-based guest teacher-blogger Brian shared questions raised as he met with staff and colleagues to talk about their upcoming science fair. Brian was prepared with an impressive set of well-considered and solid answers. He and his school are well on their way to organizing their first fair!
One of the things Brian mentioned is that he and his colleagues have decided to allow students to enter Rube Goldberg Machines in the school science fair. Named after a famous cartoonist whose work often depicted detailed and convoluted machines designed to perform simple, ordinary tasks, Rube Goldberg Machines are fun to watch and demonstrate the principles of simple machines and chain reactions. These often complicated contraptions are laden with a certain amount of "wow" factor and an equal proportion of suspense... will that component strike at the right speed and right angle and right moment to trigger the next event in the sequence?.
Movie buffs likely remember Rube Goldberg-like machines from films like Robots, Edward Scissorhands, and even, going way back, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Several years ago, a Honda car commercial called "The Cog" amazed viewers with two minutes of meticulous and very-well filmed domino-like effects that resulted in the car being started and rolled off a platform. The tagline: "Isn't it nice when things work?"
Not all science fairs allow Rube Goldberg inventions. If you have students interested in Rube Goldberg Machines, we at Science Buddies encourage you to explore science fair projects that appear in our Mechanical Engineering areas of science. We have a number of project ideas that introduce relevant concepts and yet encourage the development of a working hypothesis and completion of the steps of the Scientific Method.
Here are just a few to get you and your students started thinking about the mechanics involved in solving ordinary tasks:
- Gears-Go-Round! (Science Buddies' difficulty level: 4)
- Rubber Bands for Energy (Science Buddies' difficulty level: 3-6)
- Bomb's Away! A Ping Pong Catapult (Science Buddies' difficulty level: 4-5)
- Soda Straw Robot Simulator (Science Buddies' difficulty level: 4-8)
- Give Yourself a Lift: Lightening the Load with Pulleys (Science Buddies' difficulty level: 6)
- Roller Coaster Marbles: How Much Height to Loop the Loop? (Science Buddies' difficulty level: 6)
Science fair projects in the area of Civil Engineering area are also excellent for students who love to "build" things.