As a builder and teacher of woodworking to young children I found kids loved activities I was able to create from the world of tools, building and fixing. We took apart VCR’s, patched bike tires, put faucets, flashlights and locks together and made things from wood.

One day the kids said, “we want to make something that really works”. I couldn’t get them to tell me what they wanted to build, other than a working robot which we couldn’t do.

However, I’d wanted to build a Rube Goldberg device for a long time and thought the kids would be interested. I envisioned a treadle sewing machine base hooked to a shaft on the table top running parts taken from an old tape deck or whatever else we could find. I brought all the parts but the kids had a hard time getting started. Looking back I think it was too much to ask of kids who have never built anything.

I went home to my shop and constructed a rough version from the still active third grade part of my brain, then, disassembled it and brought the parts back to class and had the kids put it together. They were pretty excited. I told them how to get started but then backed off to let them figure out some of the details. Over time various kids added and subtracted a flag waiver, a zoetrope, a bicycle generator and light, and a bronze slug that slowly crawled across the table. Later I made it more presentable. I hauled this contraption around to schools and to my summer woodworking class where I was surprised by how much it was used and talked about. The best part was it kept breaking down, and I’d say, “can you figure out how to fix it?