So it's time for the final assignment in our design journey this semester. the Rube Goldberg machine. A Rube Goldberg machine, named after American cartoonist Rube Goldberg, is a chain reaction-type machine or contraption intentionally designed to perform a simple task in an indirect and overly complicated way. Usually, these machines consist of a series of simple unrelated devices; the action of each triggers the initiation of the next, eventually resulting in achieving a stated goal. So our design objective is to assemble a series of components that when activated will trigger the next component and so on until it completes some final objective.

A cartoon example of a Rube Goldberg machine

So before starting this very vague brief, I needed to set myself some targets. How many stages will there be? What is the final action? How will I incorporate Elegoo as a “starring role” and How will it start? I decided that i wanted at least 10 stages in the system to achieve what I believe to be the minimum for a Rube Goldberg system. Two or three components didn't seem like it really earned being referred to as a system. So ten stages were the number to beat. I also decided that the final action would be pulling the needle arm lever of my record player, dropping the needle, and playing a song. A sort of, victory for a working system. I then needed to decide how i could implement Elegoo as a “starring role”. I put a lot of time into this actually. I felt like making it just go forward and bump something or just using the motors to spin or wind something was nearly too much of a, well, cop-out. If lego was going to be a starring role. He’d really be starring.

The setup of the machine actually happened very organically. I knew some key stages I wanted, like a zipline for Elegoo, a hairdryer, and the ping pong platforms. I set all of these up independently and tested them by themselves. and from there worked out ways to (quite literally) fill in the gaps. From that, the system grew intuitively and resulted in the final system coming together very smoothly. I tried to avoid the conventional small dominoes and wanted to go with large individual stages that all performed their own task, and have them connect naturally.

The setup has 11 stages that are all trigged by the stage before it and ends in the music playing triumphantly.

The above video shows an up-close of how each stage triggers the next and how they all come together to make the system. And after only a few attempts it worked. I vlogged the whole process on my Instagram story which was a lot of fun, and I was left with one of the most chaotic videos every which I am delighted to share with you now. Let this be a warning that it is incredibly hard to film all in one go, as while recording I was not aware of my surroundings and well. You can just watch to see what happens.

I honestly couldn't be happier with the end result and final Rube Goldberg machine. It was a lot of fun to build and when it worked seamlessly (almost) it was extremely satisfying and a fantastic way to end the semester. Like I said earlier I vlogged the whole process on my Instagram which you can follow @nollaigengineering on Instagram. That's where you'll get more regular and informal updates on all my engineering endeavors. Until next time!!

Engineering student in Trinity College Dublin