The Rube Goldberg Project

This past week I collaborated with Steve Zides and his Modern Art/Modern Physics course from Wofford College. We spent three days in the warehouse space below/next to the Hub-Bub building along Daniel Morgan Ave, designing, problem solving, and building a Rube Goldberg Machine.

First a little background: Rube Goldberg was an American cartoonist, sculptor, inventor, and engineer. Goldberg is most well known for his cartoons showing absurd and ridiculous machines to perform simple tasks, known as Rube Goldberg Machines. In 1987 the Swiss artist team of Peter Fischli and David Weiss created an art documentation film called, The Way Things Go (Der Lauf Der Dinge), of a chain of events and chemical reactions using everyday objects in their own type of real life Rube Goldberg Machine. And most recently in 2010, the band OK GO with a team of helpers created a Rube Goldberg like machine for the music video to go along with their song This Too Shall Pass. View videos of them here:

So, I presented the idea of making a Rube Golderg Machine with Steve Zides’s class. He loved the idea. We started off by watching some of the videos and looking at some Rube Goldberg cartoons. I had the students make some drawings of their own to help generate ideas, play with some small objects, and then we went down to the warehouse and played with materials, and everyday objects.

The students dove right in and seemed to have quite a bit of energy, I was personally quite impressed with the problem solving, critical thinking, and creative thinking the demonstrated in making this project happen. I was very excited to see them design a ramp and track/bowling ball system, bricks falling into buckets on pulleys, the incorporation of a toy robot, cassette tape cases as dominoes, and especially, the zip line of rope. pulleys, and a bowling pin and spool as the weight.

I had a wonderful time working with the class by aiding with my building skills, and power tool use. Steve was quite helpful with his physics background. It was a great time. All sections of the machine had worked at one time, but due to the lack of time, the machine didn’t work perfectly, yet for only three short classes in a row, they made a pretty impressive and bad ass Rube Goldberg Machine! Check out the video documentation here:

Thanks to Steve Zides and his great group of students in the Modern Art/Modern Physics class!

-Ron

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Filed under Artists-in-Residence, Ron Longsdorf (10-11)

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