Rube Goldberg Physics Project 


Sierra Ludwig, Natalie Carver, Ashlee McKeller

Mr. O’Neill

Physics, period 3

January 8, 2006

Rube Goldberg Machine Project

Step A (Kinetic Energy):  Toy car is released to descend the hot-wheels ramp

Step B (Kinetic Energy):  Toy car crashes into dominoes and dominoes fall one after another

Step C (Potential Energy):  Dominoes hit the dinosaur that falls off the desk

Step D (Light):  Dinosaur falls on the “easy-touch” light that turns on


Materials:  toy car, hot wheels ramp, dominoes, toy dinosaur, “easy-touch” light


            The purpose of our physics project is to use a variety of household objects to transfer energy.  Our goal is to accomplish the task of turning on an “easy-touch” light.  Our model begins with a toy car descending down a hot-wheels ramp.  This is kinetic energy.  At the bottom of the ramp the car crashes into a line of set-up dominoes that fall onto each other.  Here, the kinetic energy is transferred from the car to the dominoes.  The dominoes then crash into a plastic dinosaur, which transfers the kinetic energy from the dominoes to the plastic dinosaur.  This causes the dinosaur to fall off the desk, which shows potential energy.  The dinosaur falls onto an “easy-touch” light that turns on, which shows light energy.  We looked at the “Simple Machines” website to gather ideas.  We also used a “Goldberg Devices” website to research how to make the objects work together to accomplish our goal.  We were able to discover how to transfer the energy.

            At step A, Kinetic Energy is used.  The toy car starts off moving at a high speed when we initiate its movement.  It accumulates energy as it goes down the hot-wheels ramp.  In step B, the energy is transferred to the dominoes at a high speed.  Energy is lost between each of the dominoes.  Through step C, the Kinetic Energy transforms into Potential Energy when the plastic dinosaur falls.  At step D, the energy is stored in the “easy-touch” light as it turns on.

Number of Dominoes

Did it accomplish the task?








Position of “easy-touch” light

Did it accomplish the task?

Touching desk


1 in. away from desk



            The final version of the model we have constructed is very successful.  Our scenario involves a toy car descending down a ramp and crashing into dominoes that fall on each other and cause a dinosaur to fall off the edge of a desk and onto an “easy-touch” light.  One of the difficulties we encountered was lining up the dominoes correctly so that they would make it to the dinosaur and have enough force to knock the dinosaur over.  Another difficulty was placing the dinosaur and the “easy-touch” light so that the dinosaur would fall directly on the light.  Our Goldberg Machine was successful four out of five times we attempted; therefore, the reliability is high.  There would be no machine malfunctions over time. 

            To accomplish this project we tested many different scenarios with the ideas that we gathered from the websites.  After we came up with the idea for our project, we tested it many times and discovered the correct way to position our objects.  The challenges we faced included positioning our objects so that they completed the task successfully and finding the perfect objects to use.  Successes were when we discovered how many dominoes to use and where to position the “easy-touch” light.  We liked that the project was a group project so we were able to work together for a common goal.  We wouldn’t change anything about the project.  It was fun to be creative and work together and learn at the same time. The background of energy we learned about before starting the project helped a lot.  The examples we found online were also a good starting point.  Overall, we feel it was a successful project that was both fun and a learning experience.


apic.jpg picture by crazyxcgirls

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