Getting Started

Getting Started

The program will begin with a meeting between the Engineer and Teacher sometime before Christmas break to coordinate the administration of the program to fit the class needs. The students should be introduced to the program before the holiday break so that they can collect “stuff” from home for the Rube Goldberg contraption. For those unfamiliar with the program, the hands-on portion involves using “stuff” to build a working “Rube Goldberg” device. If you are familiar with the board game, “Mouse Trap” or if you have seen the many contraptions assembled by “Wiley Coyote” in the Roadrunner cartoons then you know a Rube Goldberg contraption. The popular movie “The Sandlot” shows a (Rube Goldberg) vacuum cleaner to retrieve a baseball from the dog pen in a neighboring yard.

The Program Period

The actual program runs from the first of December until the end of March.

Some special considerations include:

  • The Rubes are built on a 4ft. X 4ft. sheet of plywood (supplied by the program). The Rube must fit within a 36” x 36” x 36” space within the plywood. This will require a corner of the classroom or a designated area in the school that is safe and secure and big enough for the student teams and engineer to work around. The Rube will likely be decorated by painting and gluing things to it, so drop cloths and other protection for furnishing should be considered.

  • Classroom time is valuable; engineers can assist teachers by incorporating certain math or science principles into his/her presentation making the program a valuable interactive learning experience and compliment lesson plans.

  • The Teacher must be present at all times in the classroom and participate as a vital part of the engineering team and maintain responsibility for discipline in the classroom. The class may be split up into teams that work on the many aspects of the program in preparation for the competition. The more help you can solicit from your school including student teachers, parent volunteers, and high school students fulfilling community service credits, the easier the program will run.

  • The Engineer will be using tools (hand and power) when assisting students in the construction of the Rube. Please be aware of the safety of the students around these tools. All Engineers should be able to provide the highest level of safety for the students.

  • This program is meant to include the entire fifth grade class. It is vitally important that all students be given the opportunity to experience and achieve through the program.

  • This is a student program. Judging of the program will assess the level of students’ involvement. Too much adult involvement will be scored down at the showcase.

Local Showcase

The Rubes will be judged in a single day local showcase. Judges are selected in a manner to avoid any conflicts of interest with any of the engineers, teachers and schools. All contraptions must be present at the start of judging. A schedule of judging times will be distributed the week prior to the competition. Each student engineering team will be allowed to set up and then make a brief presentation of 5 minutes maximum to the judges. Teachers should encourage attendance at the showcase. Judges like to see the extent of teamwork and team knowledge conveyed to them.

The top five places will be awarded prizes for their school (Books, software, etc.) The top three places will advance to the regional showcase at the University of Illinois Engineering Open House (EOH).

Regional Showcase

The top three finishers will be eligible to advance to the regional showcase at the Engineering Open House (EOH) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Based on many years of experience with this part of the program we strongly recommend that you consider treating this like an extended day field trip. The regional competition schedule is made to make this event enjoyable and manageable; your class will need to arrive at the venue at 9:15 am with the showcase to begin at 10:00 sharp. Brown bag lunches are recommended as there is space at the venue to eat. This will give your class time to visit the EOH displays and demonstrations from around 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm, departing around 2:45 p.m. and returning to your school before 5:00 p.m. Please check with your school administration on this recommendation. This is not the only way to participate in the regional showcase, but based on experience and feedback of past year’s participants, this should provide for a pleasant experience.

Program Closeout

We encourage Engineers and Teachers to find a way to celebrate the achievements of the student engineering team. This can be anywhere from a class party to a school wide assembly. The students have poured their hearts and souls into this program and should be rewarded and recognized for their hard work. Each student will receive a certificate of achievement from Engineer in the Classroom.

Important Note:

With the advancements of the internet and websites like Google and YouTube you will be able to view and explore the daily subject matter in great detail. Please check with your school on rules and regulations for using the internet and preview websites and videos BEFORE showing them to your class.

To find out more about Rube Goldberg, go to