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Extension > Youth Development > Minnesota 4-H > Events > Engineering Design Challenge

Engineering Design Challenge:
Rube Goldberg

Learn critical thinking, creativity, innovation and problem solving in a non-traditional learning event and have fun at the same time! Young people in third through eighth grades can compete in these friendly science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) team competitions, which take place at county fairs.

Participants apply their STEM knowledge to solve problems by identifying and researching them, then making and implementing a plan to design a solution. The challenge is designed and supervised by University of Minnesota faculty from the STEM Education Center and the Extension Center for Youth Development.

The 2016 Engineering Design Challenge:

Crush an empty aluminum soft drink can and put it into a recycling container

recycling logo superimposed on crushed aluminum cans

Are you interested in forming a team to take part in the 4-H Engineering Design Challenge?

  1. Register by May 15: No paper registration this year. Team leaders, members and youth coaches will sign up through their 4HOnline accounts. Adult volunteer leaders must register before their team members can register. Find instructions here.
  2. Download the handbook: Most of the information you need can be found in this year's 4-H Engineering Design Challenge handbook.
  3. Design and build your machine!

Watch a video about Rube Goldberg designs.

Important dates and timelines

  • May 15: We recommend that teams register by May 15 in order to have enough time to design and build their machine before their county fair.
  • Early summer: The Minnesota 4-H STEM team will hold an informational conference call with team leaders.
  • May, June, July, August: Register through your county Extension office to show your machine at your county fair. Check with your 4‑H program coordinator to find out your county's fair registration deadline.
  • July 1: Last day to register for the challenge. (If your county fair registration date falls before July 1, that date is the last date your team can register.)
  • Competition date: Your local county fair
  • August 25 - September 5: Minnesota State Fair
4-H setting up their RGD

Members of the Kragle Konquerors 4‑H Rube Goldberg team from Le Sueur County pose with their machine at the 2015 Minnesota State Fair. Click image to enlarge.

Last year's challenge

The 4-H Engineering Design Challenge for 2015 was to design and build a machine in the spirit of Rube Goldberg, to put toothpaste on a toothbrush.

The best Rube Goldberg contraptions use everyday items in a whimsical and complicated way to interact as a series of chain-reaction steps to accomplish the simple task. To make their RGs, participants in the 4‑H Engineering Design Challenge use physics and engineering principles, employ humor and storytelling, work as a team, consult adult mentors and reflect on their learning. Teams that build a RG and complete the supplementary recordkeeping requirements can show them at their county fair, where they may qualify to be eligible to show their RG at the Minnesota State Fair.

About Minnesota 4-H

Minnesota 4-H is a learn-by-doing youth development organization offered throughout the state. Read more about 4-H. The 4-H Engineering Design Challenge is one of many science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) projects that young people can do in 4-H. We encourage critical thinking, creativity, innovation, and problem solving in nonformal learning experiences and we have fun in the process!

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