We love these COVID Rube Goldberg machines

Quarantine meets creativity as people make their own versions of the famous complicated contraptions
Rube Goldberg machine (© Lancelotlachartre - Dreamstime.com)


These days, the coronavirus has upended a lot of what we do with our lives. But one thing that quarantine and isolation is perfect for is the planning, building, and running of ridiculously complicated devices designed to complete very simple tasks.

Rube Goldberg machines!

All over the continent, people have been making their own unbelieveable versions of these mega-gadgets, and we want to share some of our favourites with you. In each case, these people spent days and even weeks perfecting their expansive, esoteric apparatuses. And they had to be prepared to fail more than a few times, too. But we think they were all worth it in the end!

Sporting life

The first is a San Diego family that was determined to score the winning goal in foosball ... in the most difficult way possible, of course. (We love how they start getting more excited as the machine gets closer to the end!)

Next up is YouTuber Creezy, whose Swish Machine is easily the most mind-boggling two pointer ever scored in the history of basketball.

Open for business!

At Exploration Place, a science museum in Wichita, Kansas, staff members built an enormous Rube Goldberg machine to celebrate reopening after being under COVID shutdown. It takes them a few tries, but they get there!

Don't forget to wash up!

Since 1987, there has been a national contest in the United States to build Rube Goldberg machines. Each year, a task is chosen—such as building a hamburger, turning on a radio, or opening an umbrella—and people try to make the best version of the machine to win.

COVID initially cancelled the 2020 contest. But then the organizers decided to let people submit their machines on YouTube and open up the contest to the whole world. The theme? A very timely, virus-fighting one: Fetch a bar of soap!

Ryan's submission was pretty great ... though he just missed catching the bar of soap at the end (which makes for a very funny blooper!).

In "Soap Delivery", Brayden and his family combine fun sound effects and a phone call to wash his hands.

But the winner out of all of the submissions was a family from Toronto. Their Rube Goldberg machine took over two floors of their house ... and even included a soundtrack!

Who was Rube Goldberg?

Rube Goldberg machine

Rube Goldberg's Self-Operating Napkin. (Wikimedia Commons)

American cartoonist Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) was a revolutionary artist. Starting in the early 1900s, his newspaper cartoons became some of the most popular in the country. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his political cartoons, founded the National Cartoonist Society in 1946, and the annual prize for the best cartoonist in the U.S.—the Reuben Award—is named after him.

Goldberg was also famous for his cartoons that showed outrageously complex machines that were designed to complete a very simple task—like turning on a light switch or, in the cartoon above, wiping someone's face with a napkin.

Eventually, people tried to replicate these kinds of bizarro contraptions in real life. And the name for them was obvious: Rube Goldberg machines!

So are you inspired to trying building one with your family? No time like the present!


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