Rube Goldberg lesson challenges students to get Innovative in their problem solving 

Collegiate’s Upper School Theatrical Production students are engaging in the ultimate hands-on project by developing and designing Rube Goldberg Machines to complete simple tasks in a complex manner. 

Our Upper School students, who are currently taking a break from theatrical performances during the winter semester, are staying busy with opportunity. 

“I wanted a group project that would promote independent problem solving,” said Brendan Hoyle, theater director. I have watched the Maker Movement, which promotes a very exciting do-it-yourself culture. I researched the movement further and came across the concept of Rube Goldberg machines.” 

A Rube Goldberg machine is a contraption, invention, device or apparatus that is deliberately over-engineered to perform a simple task in a complicated fashion, generally including a chain reaction. 

“Each machine’s end task is very simple — breaking an egg, dumping a bucket or pouring sugar into tea,” said Hoyle. “The fun of a Rube Goldberg machine is that it uses many different steps in a chain reaction to accomplish this very simple end-task.” 

Students developed the machines in small groups. 

“What I have learned from this project is that incorporating everyone’s ideas makes things unique. It’s better to work as a group then alone,” said Noah Siebert ’17. “These group projects allow people to show their talents in different areas such as painting or mechanics.” 

Each machine must use at least 10 individual steps to complete a task, have a minimum running time of 1 minute, and have a detailed final sketch that accurately depicts every step of the machine. 

“The goal with this specific project is to promote individual and group problem solving while practicing design and building skills that are utilized throughout the year in Theatrical Production,” said Hoyle. “Unlike the rest of the year, I try to remain on the sidelines as much as possible, encouraging students to find their own solutions to the problems that arise.”

“Developing the machine has showed us what we think will work will not actually work the vast majority of the time,” said Darden Purrington ’16. “Whether it’s plans for building, physical implementation of a plan or any other idea which can be developed, this project taught persistence and creative problem solving.”

The project is designed to open students’ minds to creative yet fun problem solving. 

“Often times our students seek a simple question or answer in an educational path; however, in life there are usually many ways to solve any given problem and this project teaches them that,” said Hoyle.

“I have always loved building things from nothing and making them something. This project allowed me to do just that,” said Noah.

The contest will be judged and critiqued by each student group. The winners of the project will receive gift cards and certificates to Chick-fil-A and Your Pie Pizza. 

Click here to see what our students have created.

For more information about the theatrical production program at Collegiate, contact Brendan Hoyle at