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Exploring Simple Machines and Creativity through Rube Goldberg Machine, a free Project Based Learning lesson plan for grades 6-8.

In this project-based learning lesson plan, students will embark on a journey to explore the principles of simple machines, physics, and creativity by designing and building their own Rube Goldberg machines. These whimsical contraptions are elaborate chain-reaction devices that perform a simple task in the most complicated way possible. This project will challenge students to apply their knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to create innovative and fun machines.

Rube Goldberg Machine Project! An engaging Project Based Learning lesson plan for grades 6-8.

Grade Level: Middle School (6th-8th grade)

Subject Areas: Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, and Art

Duration: 4-6 weeks (may vary based on class schedule)

Rube Goldberg Machine Project Objectives:

  1. Understand the principles of simple machines and how they relate to real-world applications.
  2. Develop problem-solving and critical-thinking skills through designing and building a Rube Goldberg machine.
  3. Foster creativity and teamwork in the context of a collaborative project.
  4. Apply mathematical concepts, measurement, and data analysis to the project.
  5. Communicate the design process and results effectively.

Rube Goldberg Machine Project Materials:

  • Classroom supplies (paper, cardboard, tape, glue, string, scissors, etc.)
  • Assorted objects for constructing the machine (dominoes, marbles, toy cars, ramps, pulleys, etc.)
  • Simple machine models (levers, pulleys, inclined planes, etc.)
  • Measuring tools (rulers, measuring tape, protractors)
  • Computers for research and documentation
  • Digital cameras or smartphones for documenting the process

Week 1: Introduction to Rube Goldberg Machines and Simple Machines

Day 1: Introduction to Rube Goldberg machines, watch examples.

Days 2-3: Explore the concept of simple machines. Hands-on activities with levers, pulleys, inclined planes, etc.

Days 4-5: Research and gather materials for the project. Discuss safety guidelines.

Week 2: Planning and Design

Day 1: Brainstorm in groups. Define the task your machine will perform.

Days 2-3: Create a detailed plan for your machine, including sketches and a list of materials needed.

Day 4: Present your plan to the class for feedback.

Day 5: Finalize your design and gather materials.

Week 3-4: Building the Rube Goldberg Machines

Days 1-10: Assemble the Rube Goldberg machines based on your designs.

Throughout this period: Troubleshoot and make adjustments as needed.

Week 5: Testing and Refining

Day 1: Test the machines and identify any issues or improvements.

Days 2-5: Make necessary adjustments and continue testing.

Week 6: Presentation and Reflection

Day 1: Present your completed Rube Goldberg machines to the class.

Days 2-3: Reflect on the project and discuss the following questions:

What challenges did you face during the project?

How did you apply principles of simple machines?

What was the most creative part of your machine?

How did teamwork play a role in your project?

Days 4-5: Compile a project report or presentation showcasing the design process, challenges, solutions, and final results.

Rube Goldberg Machine Project Assessment:

  • Class participation and collaboration during planning and building.
  • The functionality and creativity of the Rube Goldberg machine.
  • Project report or presentation detailing the design process and reflections.
  • Ability to apply simple machine principles and concepts.
  • Teamwork and problem-solving skills.


Invite parents, other classes, or the school community to see the machines in action.

Hold a Rube Goldberg competition with prizes for the most creative, complex, and functional machines.

Discuss the history of Rube Goldberg and his contributions to engineering and humor.

By the end of this project, students will not only have a deeper understanding of simple machines and physics but will also have developed problem-solving skills and a greater appreciation for creativity in engineering and design.

Bonus: Project Based Learning Lesson Plans Template

Whether you’re designing a project based lesson plan for your class, co-op, or homeschool family, make it easy with a simple and effective Project Based Learning lesson plans template. This template includes a two-page overview of your project, five days of planning, and a ten point rubric all in a simple-to-edit Google Doc.

PBL Lesson Plan Template

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