New Materialities and Maker Paradigms in Schools
Field Notes (Rube Goldberg)
Before class starts, a student rushes in, yelling, “Mr. N., can we get started? It’s 12:30!”
Following wind turbines, solar cookers, and a variety of simple machines, and after several weeks of parachute competitions, Aidan’s eighth-grade science students were about to conclude their final project of the year: the maximally inefficient and minimally productive Rube Goldberg machine. The goal had been to design and construct a ball-drop machine with at least five steps (such as levers, wheels, pulleys, or incline planes), including a starting action, and to iterate the design until the machine could successfully complete its task two times in a row. Aidan wanted the students to do three things: build a device that demonstrated the concept of mechanical advantage; reflect on and talk about the building process itself; and apply the physics from class lectures and worksheets to describe the way their machine worked. He said that after measuring and calculating characteristics such as mass, distance, and time, “They should be able to make sense from the math.” But first, the machines have to work; and today is test day.
“I’m really excited!” a student says, dropping her book bag on the floor and rushing to her teammates, who have already begun their final setup and troubleshooting. “Let me drop the ball!” ← 147 | 148 →
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