Little elves with have a blast with this Christmas Rube Goldberg STEM Challenge! Young engineers will make a jingle bell land in a red paper cup through a series of chain reactions.
You can set this up with building toys and materials you already have. The supplies don’t need to be complicated!
What is a Rube Goldberg machine?
Rube Goldberg (born in 1883) was an engineer and cartoonist. He loved to draw cartoons of ridiculously complex machines that used a series of chain reactions to perform a very basic task. One action would trigger another, and so on, until the goal had been accomplished.
You can read more about Rube Goldberg here.
Rube Goldberg challenges are fun to do with kids because they are very open-ended. Each child or group of children can approach this in a different way!
Create your Own Christmas Rube Goldberg STEM Challenge
With a few basic supplies and items that you already have, you can set up a fun Christmas engineering challenge for kids.
The challenge: make a jingle bell land in a red paper cup.
Walmart and Hobby Lobby are both great places to find solid color paper cups. If you can’t find red, green or gold would also be great choices.
You may want to offer bonus points for the number of jingle bells used! Our Rube Goldberg machine has five. I would also recommend specifying a minimum number of components, especially if you are doing this activity with a class.
Supplies Needed for Building a Rube Goldberg Machine:
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Look around your home or classroom to find items for building a Rube Goldberg machine. You can use any building set and items from the recycling bin. Here are some suggestions!
- LEGO bricks
- KEVA planks
- Wood building blocks
- Paper towel rolls
- Cardboard boxes
- Masking tape
- Craft sticks
- Toy cars
This Christmas Rube Goldberg machine was created by our good friend Scott. Thank you, Scott, for sharing your cool ideas with us!
First, we’ll show you a video demonstration.
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Choose a flat surface to build your Rube Goldberg machine. The floor may work, but if you have carpet or an uneven floor surface, you may want to work on a large table.
Let’s take a look at the awesome elements in this Rube Goldberg machine!
The final goal is for a jingle bell to land in the red cup.
The chain reaction starts by rolling a marble down a ramp built out of KEVA planks. The marble hits a series of two LEGO Technic beams that swivel and each hit a jingle bell so that it jingles. So cool!
The marble knocks down a chain of dominoes. At the end of the domino chain, the dominoes climb a set of stairs made out of Tinker Toys and then knock a jingle bell so that it slides down a ramp made out of a paper towel tube.
This next step is my favorite part! The jingle bell rolls into two dominoes, making them fall, which causes a jingle bell to swing. The jingle bell is suspended on a string which is tied to a frame built out of K’Nex. The swinging jingle bell knocks down a little wall make out of KEVA planks. The falling planks start another chain of dominoes.
The final domino chain bumps the last jingle bell, which rolls down a ramp and into the red cup!
Here’s another view of the entire setup.
For more ideas about what to include in a Rube Goldberg machine, you’ll definitely want to check out our Pumpkin Rube Goldberg Challenge. This one uses levers and a craft stick chain reaction.