Learning Goals:

  • Learners will use the engineering design process to build.
  • Learners will persist through challenges.


  • K-8th


  • Objects that roll, like cans, bottles, toy vehicles, and balls
  • Things that secure, like tape, string, rubber bands, chip clips, or glue
  • Materials to work as ramps, like books, cardboard, pool noodles, or wooden boards
  • Objects that can add height, like chairs, LEGOs, or boxes
  • Objects that fall, such as dominoes, books, or toys
  • Simple machines, such as pulleys, levers, screws, and wheels & axles
  • A bar of soap!

Other supplies that might help in your design:

  • Paper plates
  • Plastic straws
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Toothpicks
  • Q-tips
  • Tissue paper
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Balloons
  • Rulers, yardsticks, or measuring tape


  1. Introduce the challenge! Share with your child that you are creating a Rube Goldberg Machine together. What is a Rube Goldberg Machine? A Rube Goldberg Machine is a series of chain reactions that make a simple task difficult and humorous. You can watch our intro video on Rube Goldberg Machines here: https://youtu.be/Xf9Op0ellmQ 
  2. Your challenge is to create a Rube Goldberg Machine that helps you wash your hands! Check out a video about this specific challenge, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDVl5zSyZsc

Rube Goldberg Machines do not need to be made out of anything special, and you have all the materials you’ll need right in your own home!

    1. Brainstorm: Ask your child to think about what materials might help in creating a Rube Goldberg Machine. Think about where you will set your machine up in your home. Will it need to be by a sink, as a water source? Will it need to use any furniture, like a chair or dresser? What materials could roll, work as ramps, tumble and fall, slide, or secure the machines?
      1. Make a list of the supplies you’ll need.
      2. How many steps will your Rube Goldberg Machine have before it completes the handwashing challenge? Try to incorporate three steps to begin with, and add more if you want an additional challenge. In order to participate in the official video challenge, you’ll need to incorporate 10-20 steps. More information here: https://online.flippingbook.com/view/395946/.
    2. Sketch: Have your child take two minutes to sketch out your design. Remember, a good design has a LABELLED sketch! For older children, have them think about the space you’ll be working in and include measurements.
    3. Build: Using the supplies you have gathered, assist your child while they build their Rube Goldberg machines. A good design includes testing and redesigning along the way. Rube Goldberg machines often do not work the same way twice, and be sure to reassure your child if something doesn’t work the way they intended it to!
    4. Test: When your child is ready, assist them in testing their whole machines. What works? What doesn’t? Have them note where challenging areas are on their design sketches. 
    5. Redesign: Ask your child how they could improve their design after testing it? Make improvements, then test again! 
  • Bonus challenge: To compete in the official Rube Goldberg challenge, check out this page here! When you have perfected your machine, submit it using the instructions at this link: https://online.flippingbook.com/view/395946/.

Adult Tips:

During and after the activity, ask your child:

  • What materials are most helpful in building? If you could use other materials, what would you use?
  • What other kinds of machines could you build?
  • What worked about your design? What didn’t work?
  • What changes can you make so it will work better?
  • What ideas do you want to try out next time?