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Use of a Rube Goldberg Design Project for Engineering Dynamics

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session


Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1639.1 - 26.1639.16



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Paper Authors


Devin R. Berg University of Wisconsin, Stout Orcid 16x16

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Devin Berg is an Assistant Professor and Program Director of the B.S. Manufacturing Engineering program in the Engineering and Technology Department at the University of Wisconsin - Stout.

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Use of a Rube Goldberg Design Project for Engineering DynamicsAbstractRube Goldberg was a cartoonist and engineer who is best known for his series of cartoons whichshow complicated gadgets designed to complete simple tasks. The phrase “Rube Goldberg” hassince been adopted as an adjective used to describe the act of accomplishing something simplethrough complicated means. When Rube Goldberg design is incorporated into the engineeringclassroom it allows for a unique blend of creativity and challenge that is often hard toaccommodate in engineering.This paper will present a first look at my use of a Rube Goldberg design project as a tool forteaching engineering dynamics. The project was implemented as a semester long assignment.Students were divided into groups and assigned a theme picked from the topic areas covered inthe engineering dynamics curriculum, for example: instantaneous centers of rotation, dampedvibration, or impulsive motion. Each group must then build one stage of what will become aclass Rube Goldberg machine under the stipulation that their stage must demonstrate theassigned topic area. Further, a report must be submitted describing the assigned topic area andhow their stage demonstrates that topic area. One additional aspect to the project is that at theend of the semester, each stage will be assembled to build the full Rube Goldberg machine. Assuch, the student groups must communicate with each other to determine how to transitionbetween stages. This aspect is intended to incorporate an additional layer of communication andcollaboration early in the undergraduate engineering curriculum.This project is being piloted during the current semester and thus first results will be presented inthe full paper regarding the outcomes associated with the use of this course project.

Berg, D. R. (2015, June), Use of a Rube Goldberg Design Project for Engineering Dynamics Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24976

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