Rube Goldberg is now the main inspiration for this lesson. I still hit the simple machines pretty hard, but my students think Goldberg's cartoons are hilarious. His fantastically complicated machines are still a source of inspiration for competitions, Mythbusters, and YouTubers. They are all about cause and effect and make sneaky use of science and physics.
|A classic example of a Rube Goldberg comic.|
Finally, it comes down to making cool art. Each student spends a ton of time brainstorming and sketching for this project. I challenge them to design a machine that does something that happens in their heads. (Blinking, thinking, chewing, making boogers, etc.) They are required to have at least eight steps and at least four simple machines in their work. I use a projector (just shooting a white screen) to trace the students' silhouettes, then they use construction paper to make the rest of the project. I want at least 95% of the project to be made from the construction paper. I think the project turns out really cool and it really makes students think. I swear I saw some smoke coming out of a few kids' heads this year.