Goldberg’s Gears


Make the simple complicated! Design an invention in the imaginative style Rube Goldberg. Draw a self-operating chain reaction that shows you understand physics and mechanics.


1. Reuben Lucius Goldberg graduated with an engineering degree from the University of California. After 6 months of working at a water and sewers department, he changed his career and became a cartoonist. His cartoons were pictures of complicated inventions that did simple tasks. For example, he might have a 12-step process to use a napkin at the table. He also used odd materials such as pets, food items, clocks, and gears in his inventions.

2. Find some of Rube Goldberg’s famous cartoons of inventions. What simple task does each accomplish? List the steps in the process. What equipment does Goldberg use? Which scientific principles---such as gravity, acceleration, momentum, and leverage---apply?

3. Choose a simple task. Think about how you could do this task in 10 or more steps. On white paper, use Crayola® Colored Pencils to list the steps involved in your process.

4. On more white paper, use Crayola Twistables™, Washable Markers, and Colored Pencils to draw your invention. Label each part of the process with a letter, just like Goldberg did.

5. Which principles of physics and mechanics apply to your invention? Write the principles on your drawing. Explain how your invention works to your classmates.

Safety Guidelines

Adult supervision is required for any arts & crafts project. Observe children closely and intervene as necessary to prevent potential safety problems and ensure appropriate use of arts and crafts materials. Some craft items, particularly beads and buttons, are potential choking hazards for young children. Avoid use of such small parts with children younger than 3 years. Craft items such as scissors, push pins and chenille sticks may have sharp points or edges. Avoid use of materials with sharp points by children younger than 4 years. Read all manufacturers' safety warnings before using arts and craft supplies.


  • Omit the labels on your drawing. Write a title and the scientific principles that make it work. Now give it to a classmate and ask him or her to supply the missing labels.
  • As a class or a small group, decide upon an invention. Do a large-scale invention on a long piece of craft paper. Ask each person to create and illustrate one step in the process.
  • Construct a 3-D replica of your invention. Use recycled boxes, gift wrap rolls, and other items to make a gigantic sculpture.

Related Lesson Plans

Lesson Plans

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crayola supplies
  • Colored Pencils
  • Markers
  • Twistables®
  • Construction Paper



  • Grades 4 to 6
  • Grades 7 to 12


  • Language Arts
  • Math
  • Science
  • Visual Arts


  • 30 to 60 minutes
  • Multiple Sessions


  • Students learn about Rube Goldberg and his famous inventions.

  • Children design an invention that completes a simple task in many steps.

  • Children identify which physics and mechanical principles apply to their invention both in writing and orally.


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