Stepping Stones teaches Carver summer students how to build a Rube Goldberg machine

Professor Butts and the Self-Operating Napkin  (1931)

Professor Butts and the Self-Operating Napkin (1931)

Stepping Stones Museum for Children staff visited West Rocks Middle School to teach rising 6th graders how to build a Rube Goldberg machine. 

This is a machine intentionally designed to perform a simple task in an indirect and overcomplicated fashion. Often, these machines consist of a series of simple devices that are linked together to produce a domino effect, in which each device triggers the next one, and the original goal is achieved only after many steps.

Over the years, the expression has expanded to mean any confusing or complicated system. The expression is named after the American cartoonist, Rube Goldberg, whose cartoons often depicted such machines.

Carver summer transition programs are designed to help incoming 6th and 9th grade student’s transition into Norwalk’s four middle and two high schools. Programming includes individualized instruction, parental involvement, small group learning experiences, diverse enrichment activities, free transportation, and full-day activities benefiting working families. Students learn the basics of navigating their respective new schools.

The term "Rube Goldberg" was being used in print to describe elaborate contraptions by 1928, and appeared in the Random House Dictionary of the English Language in 1966 meaning "having a fantastically complicated improvised appearance", or "deviously complex and impractical".

Many of Goldberg's ideas were utilized in films and TV shows for the comedic effect of creating such rigmarole for such a simple task. In early 1987, Purdue University in Indiana started the annual National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, organized by the Phi chapter of Theta Tau, a national engineering fraternity. In 2009, the Epsilon chapter of Theta Tau established a similar annual contest at the University of California, Berkeley.