Summertime! School is out.

As a homemaker, summer is one of the best perks of the job. Sorry, I don’t mean to rub salt in the wound.

Along with the fun, I do try to keep my kids’ brains from atrophying too much over the summer. Don’t get me wrong, I do not think that video games are the end of the world as we know it. I actually like video games, they are fun. But after a zillion hours of screen time, it is time for something else. They say variety is the spice of life. Who doesn’t love spice after all? Can you say Mexican and Chinese food?!?

As my kids get older, the trips to the museum, zoo, and worksheets can only do so much. I want to engage them with fun stuff that they will like and find interesting. So, we started to create summer projects. We have done stop-motion movies and stuff like that, but my favorite project was our Rube Goldberg machine we set up in our basement.

It was a lot of work, but so satisfying at the end. Yes, I put in a lot of the work, but I also had a lot of the fun. You never grow out of that. At least, I don’t. *wink*

I want to share my thoughts and encourage you to try something like it or at least watch a video and be fascinated. Bring that kid out of you. So the topic of this article is Rube Goldberg machines.


Who is Rube Goldberg?

Rube Goldberg

Rube Goldberg on the cover of Pathé.

Rueben Garret Lucius Goldberg was born in 1883 in San Francisco, California. As a child, he loved to draw and even took drawing lessons. However, when he was old enough it was time to be more pragmatic and he decided to pursue engineering in college. Upon graduation, he took an engineering job with the San Francisco Water and Sewers department.

That didn’t last long and he quit 6 months later to take a job as a sports cartoonist. He then moved to New York and created a career as a prolific cartoonist covering politics and other topics. He was a founding member of the National Cartoonists Society and was widely recognized for his contribution to the craft during his life.

With his engineering background influencing his work, he came to be known for elaborate machine schematics. The cartoons were humorous as they seemed to accomplish simple tasks in a convoluted manner. It is said that it was his commentary on how humans often exert a lot of effort for small results.

He had a wife, Irma Seeman, and two sons. He was an inventive man who loved to work. He is quoted as once saying, “I do not count the years. Tomorrow is just another day to create something I hope will be worthwhile.” He passed away in 1970.

Awards he received over his lifetime:

  • Pulitzer Prize
  • Gold T-Square Award from the National Cartoonists Society
  • Rueben Award from the National Cartoonists Society (for which he is the namesake)
  • Gold Key Award from the National Cartoonists Society
  • Banshee’s Silver Lady Award

He sounds like a creative and inspiring man. He really did explore, create, and nurture.


What is a Rube Goldberg machine?

Rube Goldberg machine

Professor Lucifer Butts and the Self-Operating Napkin By Rube Goldberg (an old comic book) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

According to a Rube Goldberg machine is “a comically involved, complicated invention, laboriaoulsy contrived to perform a simple operation.”

If you are old enough, you may have played the game Mouse Trap as a child or watched Tom and Jerry cartoons. If not, odds are you still have seen these contraptions in action somewhere else.

For Goldberg, these drawings were merely cartoons and were never intended to be built. Today, the concept has changed a little. The focus is more on the construction and successful running of these contraptions and not so much the static image. There are now hobbyists, countless videos online, and highly competitive contests to construct them.

I should mention that “Rube Goldberg machine” is American nomenclature. Other countries have their own versions, such as “Heath Robinson” in the UK or Storm P in Denmark. Regardless, humans across the world have enjoyed these images thanks to some inventive cartoonists.


Why does everyone love them?

They are so loveable, but why?  Here are 3 reasons that I love Rube Goldberg machines.

1. They are funny.

We all could use a laugh once in a while. To look at these overly complicated machines is hilarious. Why does it have to be so complicated? Why?! It does remind us how absurd life can be sometimes, especially with technology. So sit back and enjoy the ridiculousness of it all.

2. They pull back the curtain.

Admit it, at one point in time we have all wondered how a watch or some other device works. Be it mechanical or electrical. We think…It has gears, right? I bet there are switches. But you still don’t really know.

That is the beauty of these machines. It pulls back the curtain and lets us see the magic. We get to see what’s inside the ‘black box’ and it makes sense. We understand it. We feel smart. That is a great feeling.

3. They bring out your inner engineer.

You didn’t know you had it in you, but you do. When watching the consecutive steps, you begin to imagine. Many times, the devices and materials used are everyday objects. Yet the use of the objects is so clever, it becomes delicious. You think, “I can do that!” and you can. Oh, the possibilities.


Rube Goldberg machine videos

Now that I got you all primed for fun, here are some links to a few Rube Goldberg machine videos. There are some duplicates within the links as the first 3 are compilations of videos. Along the same vein, I included some Domino and marble runs for fun.

10 Brilliant Rube Goldberg Machines at

13 Crazy Genius Rube Goldberg Machines at

13 Greatest Rube Goldberg Machines at

Huge Dominoes run at

Domino run with tricks at

Fun marble run at


The final step

The last step of a Rube Goldberg machine is often hilarious, very fitting to the context, or simply self-promotes. Regardless of which one, it is very satisfying to see them run to completion, especially if you built it.

What is your favorite part of these machines? Are you a sucker for them like I am? Do they appeal to your inner engineer? Do you find people that come up with this stuff inspiring?

Let me know your thoughts in the poll and comments.



“About Rube Goldberg.” Rube Goldberg. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 May 2015. <>.

“Rube Goldberg : Home of the Official Rube Goldberg Machine Contests.”Rube Goldberg. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 May 2015. <>.

Wikipedia contributors. “Rube Goldberg.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 8 May. 2015. Web. 11 May. 2015.

“Rube Goldberg.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia . April 9, 2015, 18:40 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. May 11, 2015 <//>.