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It’s Complicated (Machines)

In a small group, create a complex machine that will solve a simple problem.

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  • What steps do you want your machine to have? What materials do you need?
  • Where can you find ideas for your design?
  • How can you make all of your steps work together to form a machine?


  • A Rube Goldberg machineuses many steps to solve a simple problem.
  • Choose a simple problem like flipping a switch or popping a balloon and design a complicated machine to do your task.
  • Add elements like a row of dominoes, a rolling ball, a swinging pencil or anything else to use as many steps as possible to complete your task.


  • Did your design work how you thought it would? What changes did you need to make?
  • What challenges did you run into while building? What did you do to solve these challenges?
  • How do you think professional designers and builders solve problems when they run into them?
  • Remember to submit your activities on our Scouts for Sustainability Take Action Map

Keep it Simple

  • Did you know that the game Mouse Trap is just a Rube Goldberg machine? Look up some of the elements of the game for some inspiration. If you can, try playing the game to learn a bit more about chain reactions!

Take it Further

  • The world’s largest Rube Goldberg Machine consists of 412 steps and takes about 10 minutes to complete its mission— lighting a Christmas tree. How many steps can you add to your machine? Look online for some inspiration for different steps you could add to your machine. Why not challenge other Sections to make a machine with more steps?