How We Built A Rube Goldberg Machine
…and what we’ll do differently if we had our time again!
It was JP’s idea on the night of the first Nottinghack meetup. I don’t know if he was inspired by OK Go’s “This to will pass” Goldberg edition only or if it was just a prompt to wanting to build one?
You may have seen that Ok Go! video, but did you ever stop to thinks about how hard that machine was to get right?
1. this Rube Goldberg machine had to run in-time with the song… not appear to run in time, or run in the edit, actually run to a time plan, to fit the song.
2. Like all Rube Goldberg machines, it’s only clever if you really do it, really make it work end to end. So Ok Go!’s video is shot in one take.
I rather wish I’d seen Adam Sadowsky’s TED talk BEFORE the Big Rube Goldberg Weekender back in early June.
In the course of the talk Adam talks about Life Lessons… the Lessons they learned making their machine…
1. Small Stuff Stinks (…but is essential)
for example, say’s Adam, a marble will get stuck and fall out of it’s track and get stopped by dust or tiny changes in humidity, a balling-ball will pretty much do the same thing every time(because it’s so much bigger and heavier). He then says you’ve still got to have smaller stuff, it’s a place to start. We found the same thing, nothing we had was really heavy enough most of the time.
2. Planning is incredibly important
“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy… I think our enemy was physics!” says Sadowsky. “…but while planning is important so is flexibility.” Just like us they had a number of bit of the machine that just didn’t work or look right. For us some where just fantasy!
3. Put Reliable Stuff Last
“You don’t want to have to reset the whole machine…” because the stuff at the end didn’t work.
4. Life is messy (and this too shall pass).
Here are the You Tube video’s of our Rube Goldberg machine. We never did get a complete run through, but we came so close, it hurts to think back…
We’ll call our Life Lessons “The Nottinghack Laws of Goldberg”
Morrow’s 10 Commandments of Goldberg
1. Leave at least a whole day to run the machine
2. Have it all in one room
3. All builders should have a basic tool set on them at all times – Scissors, a few screws and nails, nylon cord, zip ties, screw driver, hammer, ideally a battery drill (We didn’t have enough power or power tools) gaffer tape
4. Weights – gravity is very important and it’s much easier to create momentum with more weighty props, balls etc.
5. Have one person coordinating distribution of tools and stuff.
6. Have a viewing area, this might ideally be a mezzanine floor above the machine (or similar).
7. You need to collect more stuff much earlier on.
8. Have a few set pieces and lots of small jobs set-up for people.
9. Have a coordinator for the whole machine.
10. Have a start and finish element in place before the event.
10.1 Nominate an official “sceptic” to temper the creative element in all of us….
10.2 Always take the time to make your trigger/stand/gizmo/widget properly and stoutly. This will save time in the setups later and is less likely to wear out.
10.3 Gaffer tape looses it’s sticky, string stretches, blue tak is tactless, cardboard goes floppy… You get the idea stuff wearsout build to last wood/metal/screw
10.4 Always drill a pilot hole before screwing (up) wood!
10.5 If you DO have a hair trigger in your device make a safety to stop it goes off before time
Lloyd’s First Law of Goldberg
“If an element causes the machine to fail 3 times in a row redesign it!”
Hayward’s Laws of Goldberg
1. Use nylon cord rather than string. String stretches, and frays easily.
2. Nothing generates as much force as you think it will. Sometimes, a thing won’t generate force consistently enough, and might be too gentle on some attempts.
David went on to say…
“Avoid hair triggers: They’re easy to build but too erratic in use, especially as things will wear out through repeated use. Construct ones that work every time instead (e.g. the gate on the bottle for our second run worked every time).
Having the right amount of people is tricky. Too few, and the machine takes ages to set up for each run. Too many, people fill in for each other and things don’t get set up correctly.
Have the same people set things up every time, and ideally they should be the people that built that section. There’s a lot of room for failure in every mechanism of an RGM, for instance resetting with the large orange ball just 5mm out of place caused our best attempt to fail on Sunday.”
I suppose the question is will we do another machine? oh yes…