We always start this project by checking out a few of Rube Goldberg's hilarious machine cartoons. My students always get a big kick out of his work and it gets them thinking about the possibilities for their own projects.
Next, we talk about the six different simple machines and take a look at examples of each. Finally, we look at a few videos of Rube Goldberg style machines that people have actually built and put on YouTube. My favorite is a music video by OK GO. My students go nuts over this video.
Finally, it's time to actually do some artwork. It takes a couple of weeks to brainstorm and get sketches finalized. It sounds like a lot of time, but it really does take that amount of time to do a couple drafts in order to ensure that the machines make sense. Final art is done on a 12"x18" white paper. I trace each student's silhouette during the sketching phase so it is ready to go when they begin their final. All of the machine parts are made with scrap construction paper. Huzzah for science and art!
Check out the full lesson plan here.
Click here for access to the presentation I use to begin this project.
(Download the presentation from Google Drive to use it. It will download as a Quicktime file that can be used on both Mac and PC. You will be able to navigate through using the arrow keys on the keyboard.)