It is the beginning of the school year and the anticipation of leading Elwin's Rube Goldberg team has been growing throughout the summer. Although the task will not be released until after the new year, the thought of picking students that will build our machine and present it to teachers, parents, and school administrators, brings anxiety to my stomach. Picking the right students for our team is just as important as building our finely tuned machine.
The day comes when we meet our colleagues who we will compete against. As always, we size up the competition to see who may or may not be our biggest threats. At our meeting, we also order tools and brainstorm junk that our students may need. Being new to Elwin, I feel the pressure in helping our students secure and keep our first-place trophy. As applications are turned in, my partner, Ms. Erickson and I, flip through students that will make up our team, as well as speak to references on the applications.
Finally, it is time to meet our team for the first time. We initially set ground rules and go over 21st century skills, as well as functions of simple machine mechanisms like pulleys, wedges, and screws, to name a few. We pass out our composition books and ensure that students maintain confidentiality with all the discussions that we have together as well as the drawings that we create. In other words, everything is top secret. As a team, we also discuss possible themes and team names. We fine tune a name, "Elwin's Goldbergian Bulldogs" and finalize a theme, "Traveling Back Through Time Through the Wonders of the World". For homework, students are given projects over Winter break, which must be shown to the group. These projects are used to simply get the students to start thinking about the process of building and the tools they may need once they start building their machine.
After Winter break, a few more meetings are conducted to draw out possible plans and machines that we may want to include. The students show, one by one, what they have drawn on their team composition book. We cross out what we will not include, as well as draw on a master concept board what will be included. At the end of each meeting, I take a picture of the board and erase it to ensure security.
When we finalize our concept, we start building our machine. Many of the students have already created something at home or at school, which we have decided to utilize in our machine. As we build our Rube Goldberg machine with the concept in mind; however, along the way, we realize that some things will be left out and others will take their place, either because a student has come up with a better idea, or the idea we had is not functioning as we thought it would. It takes us a couple of weeks to build the machine. The students bring a large amount of junk to our top-secret classroom as well as materials that they will use to build their portion of the machine. Materials range from cardboard and nails to fish tanks and lamps. The students are all self-motivated and impress me very quickly with their efficiency and desire to work on their projects.
We are finally excited that our machine is built. The team anticipates running the machine. We quickly learn that things are not going to be as easy as we thought they would. For one, the machine has been built in a bungalow, which bounces when students walk around, setting off the machine in different places. Second, all the functions of our creation are set so that if it is off by a couple of centimeters, one of the 22 steps will not work properly; therefore, causing the machine to fail. After approximately 75-100 runs, we finally get 3 videos that we may want to use. From the three videos, we make a judgement as which will be the clearest and represent the teams work the best.
We failed many times while trying to run our machine, but ultimately, we succeeded in perfecting it. Overall, this experience has allowed both myself and the team to learn that success comes from hard work, and on many occasions, failure can lead to success.