Here’s an engaging STEM challenge that is just perfect for the fall season! Challenge kids to build a Rube Goldberg machine that gets a candy pumpkin into a basket. Kids will have so much fun tinkering with this, and you can use supplies from around your house or classroom. It doesn’t need to be complex!

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.

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Candy Pumpkin Rube Goldberg Machine Challenge:

Can you get a candy pumpkin to land in a basket?

Use any small basket you have. Another option would be to use a plastic bowl or a small container.

The candy pumpkins we used are the ones that taste like candy corn. I found a bag of just pumpkins at our local grocery store. Sometimes, they come packaged together IN the bag of candy corn.

Recommended Age: The examples we will show would work well for 3rd – 6th grade students (ages 8 – 11). However, 7th and 8th graders could take this challenge and make it bigger! There are adults who post Rube Goldberg videos on YouTube, so there’s really no upper limit to this challenge.

Supplies Needed for Building a Rube Goldberg Machine:

You can use any building toy you have, plus other items from around the house! Here are some suggestions:

Components of Rube Goldberg Machines:

There are so many components or chain reactions that kids can build. I’ll list some options, and then we’ll show you what we built!

  • Ramp for a toy car or ball
  • Domino chain
  • Craft stick chain reaction
  • Tube to roll down
  • Lever – we used a ruler for ours
  • An object that swings on a string and hits something else
  • An object that swivels or turns to hit something else
  • A tower that falls down

This was our first attempt. So much fun! My 8 year old daughter came in after I had already set it up, and she was really impressed. It was fun to see her processing how one action would cause the next one.

We decided to modify this setup and use a ruler to create a lever! So cool.

I used a rubber band to attach the ruler to a cylinder wood block. Then I taped a little piece of index card to the end of the ruler to keep the candy from falling off the end.

We started with the pumpkin end down. Then the car landed on the ruler and flipped the pumpkin up into the air!

Here’s a picture of the setup.

It worked so well! Sometimes the car didn’t land quite right and fell off the side of the ruler, but most of the time, the pumpkin landed in the basket.

This next Rube Goldberg machine setup was my favorite.

It starts with a simple craft stick chain reaction, which you can find out how to build in this post.

Then, an eraser perched on top of the last craft stick lands on the ruler lever.

The lever bumps a bouncy ball.

The bouncy ball starts a domino chain reaction.

The last domino bumps the pumpkin, and it rolls down the ramp and into the basket!

Here’s a close up of the eraser and lever part.

A good friend helped us design Rube Goldberg machine ideas. He used Keva planks and dominos. Then he started the whole thing off with a cool LEGO ball release!

Pull out an axle, and the arms drop and release the ball. You can see this in action in the video at the bottom of this post.

KEVA planks work so well for building ramps. You can also use them to make stairs for dominos to climb!

Ready to see our Rube Goldberg machine challenge in action?

Click the play button to watch the video of our different Rube Goldberg machine configurations. If you don’t see a play button, it’s probably because you have an ad-blocker running. Ads allow me to keep my website free (rather than charging a membership fee for my content).

Want more Fall STEM Ideas? We’ve got tons of fun projects with fall leaves, tessellations, pumpkin science experiments, candy corn catapults, and more.

SEE THEM HERE: 12+ Awesome Fall STEM Activities


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