Thinksteam Blog

Empower, Enable, and Encourage Girls to Excel

A different kind of Engineering that I really like

November 23, 2018 - Uncategorized -

I wanted to blog about Rube Goldberg because I think his inventions are a great way to draw young girls and women like me into Steam. The is a Rube Goldberg club at my school and I have always found that interesting. A Rube Goldberg machine takes a simple task like opening an umbrella and turns it into a hilarious, inefficient and complicated task. My school won the 2016 Lower Hudson Valley engineering expo. The challenge was to open an umbrella. The winning team went to Wisconsin to compete in the national championship. They didn’t win but it was a great learning experience. The challenge this year is to build a machine that can put a coin into a piggy bank using a minimum of 20 steps and a maximum of 75. Rube Goldberg machines are based off the concept of the domino effect. Watching the domino effect is fun and exciting and creating machines that perform that effect is both fun and challenging. Collecting random household objects like mouse traps, plastic pipes, game board pieces like Jenga, and rolling objects like marbles and bowling balls is fun, and imagining as a team how to combine them into achieving such a simple task is really incredible. There are 11 kids in my club right now and only one other girl besides me. I think about how we could try and get more girls involved. Kids who signed up for Rube Goldberg are already in the school Engineering program, and I guess to get more girls in the club, the bigger idea would be to get more girls to take Engineering. Programs like Thinksteam are a great start in that direction and workshops with girls before high school age including fun things like Rube Goldberg machines are a way to lay the foundation for girls my age to want to join Engineering clubs and take Engineering classes.
Another way girls could be drawn to Rube Goldberg machines are through everyday things like movies. Did you know movies like Back To The Future and Honey I Shrunk The Kids show his inventions and prove how Goldberg was a timeless inventor and his work is still portrayed in today’s world? The film Saw is also a good example of Rube Goldberg machines. Almost all of the torture devices are designs and ideas created by Goldberg. The films I chose to mention also appeal to audiences of many ages- from my parents, to very little kids, to dark and brooding teenagers. There’s a fantastic Honda commercial that shows a deconstructed car being reconstructed in Rube Goldberg fashion to reveal the new Honda. It’s great advertising and an eye catching way to see his ideas in your own home. Attached is some great examples of Rube Goldberg machines including the Honda ad.

Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg was born on July 4th 1883 in California. He was born to a Jewish family and started out as a paperboy. He is said to have loved to smell the ink of fresh newspapers as he delivered them. He went to The University Of California at Berkeley. His first official job was as a sewer engineer. He was paid 100 dollars a week, which was a lot for the 1900’s. He decided to quit his job to do cartooning for a local newspaper. His Father disapproved of this choice because he was being paid well and the Cartooning job was only eight dollars a day. In his life he made over 50,000 cartoons. When he started publishing his cartoons people we hesitant at first, once they got into it though he was making over 100,000 dollars a year which is equivalent to $2,465,240.00 today. It’s possible one of his most famous cartoon character’s- Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts is the cartoon version of him.

Throughout his life he earned the Reuben Award, and the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning. He is the only person ever to be listed in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary as an adjective. If you look it up it’s true- the man is an adjective! That’s very cool.

Rube Goldberg originally created the inventions his cartoons portrayed to test the physics and engineering behind them. Then it was fun and challenging for him to make more elaborate and more complex machines for the simplest tasks- just like the clubs bearing his name do today! Goldberg was also awarded The Gold T-Square, which is awarded to professional cartoonists who have created works of art for 50 years. So far only one other person has ever received one. The award itself is modeled after one of Goldberg’s sculptures.

Something that stuck out in my research of Rube Goldberg was the fact his children chose to change their names to avoid the controversy some of his political cartoons caused as well as the unfortunate negativity that still comes with having a Jewish heritage. It was incredible to me that someone so successful and talented would have children who disassociated themselves from his legacy. Rube Goldberg competitions are held all over the world and there are many youtubers like Joseph’s Machines making money off his ideas. It’s a shame our society still undervalues people based on things like ethnicity, race and gender. I think another reason I was drawn to blog about Rube Goldberg was because he and his family met with adversity throughout his amazing life, and I think a lot of girls and women interested in science and engineering can identify with that. Maybe his machines, and his legacy will reach girls and say- yes, this tiny marble can open an umbrella and though it will be a struggle, and definitely more complicated than it needs to be- it will succeed- and for a girl trying to make it in a science and engineering world- maybe that’s exactly what she needs to hear.


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