STEM Enrichment

During Summer School at Rocky Mountain Elementary, students could be found reading, writing, conducting science experiments, or designing Rube Goldberg machines. "What is a Rube Goldberg machine?", you may ask. The machine is a complicated way to perform a simple task. Think of Back to the Future. The opening scene focuses on Doc's laboratory. There is a series of convoluted machines, pulleys, and planes that work together to push the button on the toaster. That is an example of a Rube Goldberg machine, and there are lots more on their website: www.rubegoldberg.com.

Back to Rocky Mountain Elementary... Our very own third grade teacher Mrs. Jaworski had the brilliant idea to challenge her STEM Enrichment students to build their own machine. Groups worked together to define the purpose of the machine. Some tried to push and pull the handles on a faucet while others worked on closing a door or knocking over a lego building with a marble. The students had a blast working on this project. Each student was collaborating, communicating, brainstorming and problem solving while working with tubes, pipes, glue and tape. Groups were able to conduct multiple iterations by testing their design throughout the entire process. One could walk into the classroom to see students drawing their design on paper, testing it out, going back to their design to redo their work, and then returning to test their changes again. It was a never ending cycle of learning, collaborating and fun. 

In the end only half of the groups succesfully completed their task. Of the succesful projects, one group used their knowledge of gravity and pulleys to open the faucet. They rigged a pulley around a beam above the sink. Attached to this pulley was a basketball on a string sitting on the table. A chute was placed above the basketball in which a baseball was sitting on top with a piece of carboard holding it in place. When the cardboard was removed the baseball fell down the chute knocking into the basketball which would fall off the counter wieghing down the string to go through the pulley to pull the paddle on the faucet allowing water to cascade into the sink. 

The challenge was a success and students had fun creating their Rube Goldberg machines.