HARRISBURG, PA — Reach Cyber Charter School students will be competing in the school’s annual Winter STEM Challenge by creating their own Rube Goldberg machines. The challenge provides an opportunity for Reach Cyber students to enhance their engineering and problem-solving skills by conceptualizing and constructing the machine, which is designed to complete a simple task in a complicated fashion.
Reach Cyber Charter school, a K-12 full-time cyber school, encourages any family in Pennsylvania interested in winter activities that are fun and educational to try their hand at building their own Rube Goldberg machines at home.
“We devised our annual STEM Challenge for Reach Cyber a few years ago to build some hands-on learning fun into the early weeks of winter,” says Danielle Leibig, STEM Camp Coordinator for Reach Cyber Charter School. “For Reach, hands-on learning is an important component of our cyber school curriculum to foster creativity and imagination, which is why every year students receive a STEM kit with building and creative supplies that are incorporated into everyday lessons. For students beyond Reach Cyber, we encourage all students to build their STEM skills, and what better activity to that than to build their own Rube Goldberg machine.”
For the Winter STEM Challenge, the rubric for Reach Cyber students will vary slightly by grade level. For example, the higher the grade, the higher the number of energy exchanges the machine should use. New this year is the option to create a virtual Rube Goldberg machine, either by using code.org or a coding program of their choice. To build your own Rube Goldberg machine, check out this step-by-step guide, or follow the main principals below:
1) Identify the problem. Students should start the process by determining the problem they wish to solve. Do they want to turn a light off? Open a door? Feed their fish? The specific problem will determine the kind of machine that needs to be created.
2) Begin with the end. Once the problem is identified, students then need to determine what the end result needs to be before building mechanisms leading to that end result. For example, if a student would like for their machine to feed a fish, they should start by making sure they have a fish container that the food will enter.
3) Continue working back from the end point to the starting point. Once the end result is established, students should continue working backwards in a series of events using simple machines, which will eventually bring them to the starting point for their machine. Students should ensure that the reaction of one event will cause the reaction of the next event.
Leibig said the Rube Goldberg machine is the perfect kind of project for students who are learning at home and even adults who are now spending more time at home.
“It’s what gives us our problem-solving skills,” Leibig said. “So we need to continue to nurture that even though we’re stuck at home. It’s really important that we find new ways to expand and to continue to get things done. We need to be working that brain, and it’s even more important that kids find a way to do that. The Rube Goldberg machine is a fantastic opportunity to do that because it’s going to make students and their whole family think critically and challenge them to work through feelings of frustration and persevere, making the feeling of accomplishment even greater.”
For more information about Reach Cyber, visit www.ReachCyberCharter.com.
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