Discover the Magic of Engineering for Holiday Fun

This holiday we decided to put our creative problem-solving skills together to surprise Santa with a little engineering magic. Watch the video below to see our Christmas creation!

Curious to see the full story? Take a look!

If you’re feeling inspired, you can make a Rube Goldberg machine like this one with materials you have around your house! A Rube Goldberg machine is a crazy contraption that’s engineered to perform a simple task after a series of chain reactions. KiwiCo product designer Andy bravely took on the complicated challenge of building the machine you saw in the video by connecting a bunch of different KiwiCo crates.

How to Make a Rube Goldberg Machine

Step 1: Select a simple task for your machine to complete.

We wanted our Rube Goldberg machine to take a photo of Santa, but your machine can accomplish a completely different task. If you’re making a Santa-inspired machine, you can have your Rube Goldberg dunk cookies in milk or ring a bell. If not, the sky’s the limit! You can have your machine do things like turn on a light, pop a balloon, or shut a door.

Step 2: Collect your materials.

Andy used materials from eight different KiwiCo crates to build our Rube Goldberg machine. Here are a few of the ones we used:

Kiwi Crate Balloon Cars

Walking Robot

Pinball Machine

Andy also used books, paper, cardboard, wooden sticks, string, and tape. If you don’t have a bunch of KiwiCo crates at home, no worries! You can use materials you already have like cardboard tubes, water bottles, dominoes, marbles, or toy cars.

Step 3: Come up with connections & triggers.

Before building the Rube Goldberg for the Santa video, Andy had to figure out how each crate would complete a mini task to contribute to the chain reaction that ends with a photo of Santa.

For example, a Kiwi Crate Balloon Car knocked into a book with a roll of tape on the top. When the roll of tape fell, it pulled a string, which connected a circuit and turned the Walking Robot on. The book, tape, and string were the triggers in this first part. The Walking Robot then knocked over a book (another trigger) which launched a marble in the Pinball Machine.

The Pinball Machine marble went down a ramp and pushed another marble through the Kiwi Crate Roller Coaster Science loop and into a small cardboard box that pulled a string attached to the Atlas Crate France Cyclist.

The cyclist pedaled down a string, knocking off a wooden stick at the bottom which triggered a catapult with a marble in it. The marble launched into a book which then pulled on a string attached to the Tinker Crate Biomechanical Hand. The finger on the Biomechanical Hand is the trigger that took the picture of Santa!

Andy says creating robust triggers is the trickiest part of making a Rube Goldberg machine since It only takes one faulty trigger to make the whole thing stop!

Step 4: Test, test, and test again.

Testing is a huge part of our design process at KiwiCo, and this project was no different! Andy had to do hundreds of tests before the entire Rube Goldberg machine worked. If your design isn’t working out, keep experimenting with different connections and triggers until you find what works.

Once Andy built and tested the Rube Goldberg machine in our KiwiCo office, he had to send the parts to Los Angeles where a bunch of folks had to rebuild it for the ad! To see the finished contraption in action, watch our full holiday ad here!

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