Rube Goldberg Machine Design Contest

Contest Rules

      Official Competition Packet
      Registration Form and Rules
      Reminders and Addendum to Rules posted 3/29/07
      Fay School parking map updated 4/14/07

The Task (updated 2/10/07)

 Design, build, and run a machine to put a specified amount of toothpaste on a toothbrush. As a part of the machine's action, the toothpaste must be caused to leave the toothpaste tube, the cap from which has been removed prior to the machine's run.
 Once the machine has completed its final step, the team captain will remove the toothbrush from the machine for weighing on the scale provided by the assigned judging team.
 The specific target weight of the toothbrush with toothpaste adhering to it is 10.7 grams (+15%/-5%).

  • If the machine cannot, through successive attempts and/or human intervention, within the team's time limit, apply toothpaste to the toothbrush, the machine will be defined as ineffective and the team will be disqualified from competition.
  • If, when weighed following the machine's run, the toothbrush weighs more than or less than the specified weight +15%/-5%, the team may attempt subsequent runs towards completion of the task within their team's time limit.
  • Should the toothpaste fall from the brush at any time prior to weighing, the machine will be defined as ineffective, but the team may attempt subsequent runs towards completion of the task within their team's time limit.
  • Human intervention is not allowed in the final step, the adding of the toothpaste to the toothbrush.
  • The toothbrush and toothpaste will be provided by the Contest. The toothbrush may not be altered in any way (drilled, cut, plucked, or mangled).

The Fay School/MIT/GE/EMC² Contest

Funded by the Fay School Grandparentís Association and co-sponsored by MIT, GE, and EMC², Fay School will invite other middle schools to compete in a spring term Rube Goldberg meet. The machine earning the most points according to the Official Judging Scorecard, while meeting all other criteria, will win the contest. The task for the machine to accomplish has been selected by MIT and will be revealed to registered schools with the materials mailing some time prior to February. Participation in the contest will be at no cost to the schools invited. In addition, Fay will provide participating schools with:

  • a task to complete (see Official Judging Form)
  • a staff of judges drawn from MIT and the Contest's co-sponsors, GE and EMC²
  • consultants from MIT
  • competition t-shirts
  • team faculty coach training at MIT
  • clear instructions and guidelines
  • the competition venue
  • a travel voucher of up to $150.00
  • a $350.00 stipend for each faculty coach
  • lunch and snacks throughout the day
  • tools to build the machine on the day of the competition
  • a box of materials to be used in the construction of the machine (to be provided at the faculty coach training in January)

Awards earned by the overall winning team will include a team trophy, and a larger, duplicate trophy engraved with the winning teamís name to remain at Fay School. The overall winning team will also receive an opportunity to display its machine at the MIT Museum, a fieldtrip to the MIT Museum, and tuition free participation in a "School, Teacher and Group Program" offered by the Museum. Runners up to the overall winner will also receive recognition. In addition, trophies will be awarded to winners and runners up in the categories of Machine Complexity, Machine Creativity, and Team Presentation to the Judges. This year, we want to encourage all of you to take your machines back to your schools. This is a wonderful educational opportunity for you and your school beyond the students directly involved in the competition. Please remove all machine parts and discard/recycle associated refuse prior to leaving for the day.

Faculty Coaches

Faculty coaches will help teams determine how to construct their machine to best accomplish the task assigned, provide transportation to and from Fay School, and to supervise their team members throughout the competition. As a coach, the faculty member may not actively participate in the creation of the machine before or during the competition, but should be available for consultation with team members throughout their participation in the contest. In this, the coach should answer direct questions with direct answers and may even be a sounding board for, or provide a reality check.

Coaches should also provide a "moral presence" in accordance with what is right and proper as well as with a given schoolís mission and code of conduct, be available during student work times, and ensure a safe and fun experience throughout the competition. Faculty coaches may help students prepare their teamís presentation to the judges and certify that all competition rules were adhered to. Finally, on the day of the competition, the Faculty Coach will manage the conduct of his or her team, and remind them that poor behavior or sportsmanship may be grounds for disqualification.

Faculty Coaches will be provided with a mandatory training session at MIT on January 27, 2007, from 9:30am-1:30pm, prior to the competition date. All teams must be represented by the primary Faculty Coach or an alternate. Failure to make this meeting may disqualify a team from the competition and a replacement team will be selected from the waiting list.

The Rules

    New rules! (based on last year's addendum document)

  1. As a part of your teamís presentation to the judges, you must provide a Rube Goldberg style drawing, including letters identifying each step, and corresponding text beneath the drawing indicating the sequence of steps towards completing the task. For samples, visit, and click on the Rube Goldberg Gallery. To keep the playing field level, this will be done on poster board or tabletop display foam board from which your team Captain will speak. PowerPoint/laptops are not permitted.
  2. Competitors are not permitted to leave the building once registered. Leaving the building may result in team member disqualification.
  3. In all matters of judging, the Chief Judge has the final say. Please have team Captains respectfully redress any grievance with the Chief Judge. In all matters of rules interpretation, the Chairman of the Steering Committee has the final word. All disputes will be followed up in writing, to the team Coach, by the Steering Committee following the competition.
  4. Eye protection is required, and all members of the team, including the Faculty Coach, will be provided with goggles. When you are in the teamís building area, you are required to wear eye protection.
  5. The number of members on a team will be 6 students in grades 7-9. The competition is limited to 16 teams, selected by the Contest Steering Committee.
  6. All participants must wear their competition t-shirts during the competition.
  7. Each team must create a machine to accomplish the stated task using the box of items provided (see Official Materials List).
  8. Each team will be provided with a 15íX15íX15í foot area in which to construct its machine and perform for the judges.
  9. A list of tools to be provided on the day of the competition will be included in the materials delivered to each team during Coach training at MIT. All tools will be made available on the day of the competition (see Official Tool List).
  10. No tools other than those provided may be used.
  11. Teams must arrive at the competition venue with all of their materials, and all materials must be in the exact condition in which they received them. Judges will certify compliance prior to machine construction. Holes drilled, screws or fasteners attached, markings of any type, etc. will result in team disqualification. The team may bring plans, templates, other design, construction, or presentation aids.
  12. No part of a teamís machine or any associated materials may be attached in any way to the walls, floor, or ceiling of the Competition venue. No action of building, cutting, or drilling shall damage furniture provided at the Competition venue.
  13. One member of each team must be designated Team Captain. The Captain will lead his or her teamís presentation of the machine to the judges, including an explanation of the process of creating the machine, a detailed description of how the machine works (including each step of the process), and the outcome. Points awarded for creativity.
  14. Each team will have a total time of 15 minutes for the presentation of its machine to the judges (recommended 5 minutes) and the successful run of its machine (recommended 10 minutes). Should a team exceed the 15 minute period, it will be disqualified from the competition.
  15. The team with the highest overall score will win the competition. Trophies will be awarded to the overall winning team and 2nd and 3rd place runners up, and to the teams earning the highest scores in each of the three judging areas of complexity of the machine, machine creativity, and the quality of teamwork/presentation to the judges. No team shall win more than one award.
  16. Each machine must be safe to the approval of the judges.
  17. Machines must incorporate a minimum of five different steps in completing the defined task. A "step" is defined as "a discrete action that (1) contributes to the completion of the Rube Goldberg task by (2) transferring or releasing energy. For an action to qualify as a Ďstep,í the machine must not be able to complete the Rube Goldberg task if the action fails. An action will not qualify as a Ďstepí if it is part of a series of side events, any one of which can fail without preventing the machine from completing the Rube Goldberg task. No action in such a series of irrelevant side events will qualify as a step." Also, repeating actions will not qualify as more than one step. A team will be disqualified from competition if it builds a machine that does not meet this minimum threshold of complexity.
  18. A machine must not imply profane, indecent, or lewd expressions.
  19. A machine may not display any corporate or sponsor logos.
  20. Each team is responsible for the security of its own machine, but intentional destructive action against other machines is cause for disqualification. In addition, misbehavior at any time is grounds for disqualification.
  21. A penalty will be assessed for any human intervention on a machine performing a successful run, defined as any act necessary to adjust the machineís performance between the start of a run and its completion.
  22. Teams may bring or invite spectators, but all spectators must remain in designated areas and will be permitted to view the competition from approved locations only. Spectators will not be allowed on the gym floor during the building phase.
  23. Any loose or flying objects must remain within the set boundaries of each teamís allowable work area (15íx15íx15í).
  24. Contestants are responsible for removing their machine and related debris immediately following the contest.

Sponsored by:
Fay School  MIT Museum  MIT Public Service Center  MIT  GE  EMC2GlaxoSmithKline
Questions about this website? Email Jesse Marsh.
Website last updated 3/29/07.