Tuesday, May 1, 2012

When objects collide kinetic energy perpetuates

We are putting our knowledge of simple machines, force, motion, and kinetic energy to the test as we wrap up our Simple Machines unit through the designing of Rube Goldberg machines. The students are working in small groups brainstorming and blueprinting machines that do not run off of electricity but rather simple machines that perform a simple task like turning on a light switch, making a blended smoothie, or getting a glass of ice water.

Inspired by a few Rube Goldberg machine videos (like the Honda Accord Rube Goldberg Machine commercial), some curious students have been researching other Rube Goldberg videos on their own time and then excitedly sharing what they have found during their next visit to STEM class. For other students, who seemed to have been quiet all year, the Rube Goldberg machine challenge has sparked their creative design interests. These students are suddenly eager to jot down ideas into their STEM journals and share them with others. Quiet students are engaging in lengthy conversations about how the marble rolls down inclined planes, dropping into baskets in pulleys, sending the other baskets on the pulleys up, to knock down dominoes that fall up winding staircases, hitting wedges, and so on.

As a teacher, it is inspiring to watch such quiet students come alive with the "magic" of science, and the possibilities of future machine creations. Every student that comes into the lab has been captivated by this project, from the littlest Kindergarten student to the tallest fifth grader. Everything they have been learning so far about force and motion is suddenly making sense to them. This is "Inspiring Elementary Engineering" at its finest! (As well as "Inspiring Curiosity", one of my favorite mottoes.)

For more information about building Rube Goldberg Machines, check out some of these videos:
Or click on the video below to view a classroom favorite with the students:


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