Howard County Library System
2015 Rube Goldberg Challenge: Crush and Recycle an Empty Soft Drink Can

Rules and Requirements

Team Requirements
Each team must:
  • Consist of fourth and/or fifth grade Howard County students who attend the same school. A school may have more than one team.
  • Have a minimum of three and a maximum of five members.
  • Have a Teacher Advisor. A Teacher Advisor may assist more than one team.
  • Have their Teacher Advisor approve the plan.
  • Have their Teacher Advisor present when recording their machine completing the task.
  • Submit a team name when registering. We encourage you to have unique names for your team if your school is submitting more than one team entry. This helps us to identify team videos with their documentation packets. If you decide to change your team name, it must be submitted with your video and documentation on Friday, April 24, 2015 by 5pm.
  • Include students' names in the written documentation, but DO NOT include their names in the videos. Videos will be posted online.

Machine Specifications

The machine must:
  • Complete the task as described in the challenge. 
  • Be no larger than 6 ft. x 6 ft x 6 ft.
  • Have a minimum of eight steps. There is no maximum of steps.
  • Incorporate the use of a minimum of three different simple machines with the option of using all simple machines.
  • Run for no more than 90 seconds per run, from start to finish.
  • Have no corporate logos or names displayed on the machines. Contestants should obscure all logos or names with tape.
  • Contain or use no hazardous materials or explosives within the machine.
  • Have no living things except the person starting the series of events.
  • Be safe to the satisfaction of the Rube Goldberg Challenge (RGC) office. The Contest Chairman must approve any questionable items prior to the competition.

Operational Details
Each team must:
  • Submit an electronic copy of a step-by-step description of its machine and upload a video. (See video specifications below)
  • Describe in an essay of 500 words or less how STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) were used to design their machine. Diagrams and pictures may be included in this description. Be as clear as possible; give examples.
  • Include a list of materials used. Include a list of recyclable materials in your documentation. Refer to Howard County's Recycling Guide for County Collections.
  • Must include a cover page which includes:
    • All student names
    • School name
    • Team name
    • Teacher Advisor's name, along with contact phone number and email
    • Email documentation to:

Video Specifications

  • Students must record an entire run of the machine in operation.
  • The video can be no longer than two minutes in length.
  • The video must have step-by-step descriptions of how the machine is operating, including what simple machines are in use, and what is happening.
  • Video must be uploaded to the HCLS Rube Goldberg Challenge Channel that will be available December 2014
  • The only living thing allowed is the person starting the series of events.

Video Recommendations
  • Be creative. Consider adding slow motion and freeze frames.
  • Review the steps before and after your video so your audience knows what to look for.

Additional Information
  •  A step in the machine should be considered a transfer in energy from one action to another action. Identical transfers of energy in succession should be considered one step.
    • For example, a set of dominoes falling into each other should be considered one step. While technically each single domino falling is a step, stating 100 steps because of the dominoes is repetitive, and not in the spirit of Rube Goldberg.
  • No programmable Logic Controllers or any other electronic controller may be used on the machines.
  • Students are permitted to design a component that has electricity flowing (e.g., potato battery), as long as the students have designed it themselves - it can not be purchased or powered by batteries.

Rube Goldberg Challenge