Lab 1: Rube Goldberg Machine

Lead TAs: Melissa Mann (mlmann@andrew), Andrew Willig (andrew.willig@gm)

Due Date: Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Video of the 2012 demo

Lab Presentation. This presents the general problem. Only this website will have the most recent clarifications.

Groups Assignments:

Group Members
A Zachary Greenberg
Sarah Tan
Rauhit Ashar
Mitchell Kosouski
B Katie Sharkey
Shucheng Chao
Myles Blodnick
Vibhav Ganesh
C Carl Glazer
Alexander Shoup
Lixun Mao
D Garrett Zinke
Mopewa Ogundipe
Luke Tsai
E Rachel Shaffer
Alex Franchuk
Jae IL Kim
F Zack Birnbaum
Sean Bittner
William Maynes
G Nastassia Barber
Steven Cunningham
Kevin Ku
I Sam Zeng
Job Bedford
Frederick Chen
Group Members
J Roberto Jaime
Sruti Modekurty
Stuart Guertin
K Brian Bittner
Kevin Brennan
Gillian Rosen
L Calvin Chan
Patrick Brown
Vikram Sunder
M Hannah Lyness
Xiaofan Li
Aakash Patel
O Rachel Chow
Peter Wei
Matt Dee
P Stephane Moise
Haley Dalzell
Akul Penugonda
Q Mikio David
Audrey Yeoh
Kerry Snyder
R Ben Post
Nishant Pol
Neal Bhasin
S Preston Ohta
Zachary Dawson
Nicole Park


In this lab you will design a simple Rube Goldberg Machine. The basic idea is that this machine performs a number of unnecessarily complex steps in order to complete a simple task. The images below should clarify this idea. We will present more detail in lecture.

As you walk past cobbler shop, hook (A) strikes suspended boot (B), causing it to kick football (C) through goal posts (D). Football drops into basket (E) and string (F) tilts sprinkling can (G), causing water to soak coat tails (H). As coat shrinks, cord (I) opens door (J) of cage, allowing bird (K) to walk out on perch (L) and grab worm (M), which is attached to string (N). This pulls down window shade (O), on which is written, "YOU SAP, MAIL THAT LETTER."

Challenge Statement:

Build a Rube Goldberg machine that transfers a golf ball from one corner of your machine to the next machine using five unique energy transfers. Your machine will be started by dropping a ball in a square entry zone, and must move the ball through your machine to the next teams entry zone. 3 or more energy transfers must utilize the golf ball. All energy transfers must finish before the ball leaves machine for credit. To recieve full credit, you must both "toss" the ball above your machine to break the 60" horizontal plane above the ground either during a energy transfer or ball hand-off, AND raise the ball at least 20 inches above the height of the starting zone.

You may generate your own electrical potential, or utilize a more creative source, as long as you do not use a commercial product (like a battery, power supply, or outlet power). Chemical reactions and flames are allowed within reason. Be sure to alert the lab TAs beforehand if you are planning on significant amounts of either. You may use any materials you can find except for those involving commercial sources of electrical potential as indicated above. Each step should be unique and contribute to the goal. For example, this means you cannot have a rolling ball hit a few pins on its way down a ramp and have those actions count as steps. If you have questions, email the lab TA.

Clarifications and Suggestions

  • You can have more that 5 transfers in your chain, but can only get credit for 5 transfers completed without intervention.

  • If you are planning on changing the location of your entry zone let the previous team know via email.

  • Your machine must start the within the size constraints, but can extend into the entry zone of the next machine after triggered.

  • For grading your machine will be tested individually by a TA dropping a golf ball 20" into your entry zone. The height at which the ball leaves your machine will be used for grading.

  • Liquids count as part of your machine, but gases do not.

  • All parts of your machine must stay attached for the duration of the demo.

  • The ball leaving the machine does not count as a transfer

  • Golf Ball (provided):

    • Diameter: 1.68"

Size Constraints:

  • Base: 30" x 48" maximum

  • Height: 60" maximum (measured from the floor to the tallest point of your device)

  • Entry Zone

    • Exacly 12"x12" square

    • Two edges of the zone must be on edges of your machine

    • At least 20" clear above it

    • Exacly 24" above the ground


  • Your group's Rube Goldberg Machine

  • A copy of the grading sheet completed with your team number and names

  • Archive of all files for a website that contains:

    • Your Group's name and members' names

    • Pictures of your Rube Goldberg Machine

    • A list of the energy transfers.

Please turn in the machine in the REL, give the grading sheet to the lab TA, and submit your website files on Blackboard.

Example webpage






Number of Energy Transfers


x 12

[Maximum of 60]

Number of Inches Exit is above entrance


x 0.5

[Maximum of 10]


100 (see other 30 below)

10 points if ball gets transfered to next machine.

10 points if ball breaks the 60" horizontal plane above the ground

3/6/10 if 1/2/3+ energy transfers utilize the golf ball
The 20" are measured from the height at which the ball first contacts your machine to the height at which it last touches your machine.

Last updated 1/15/13 by Andrew Willig
(c) 1999-2013: Howie Choset, Carnegie Mellon