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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 staff from the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development with support from the STEM Education Center.

The 2017 Engineering Design Challenge:

Raise a flag, and then wave it

4-H flag

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

  • More information about the 2017 challenge will be available here by January 30; registration will open then, too.
  • The challenge is open to teams of 4-H youth who are in 3rd through 8th grades.
  • Every team needs 2 adult coaches who are screened 4-H volunteers, so find your coaches and make sure they complete the screening process so they'll be ready to register in January.

Watch a video about Rube Goldberg designs.

Rube Goldberg team demonstrating their machine.

Members of the Dakota County Crushers 4‑H Rube Goldberg team describe and demonstrate their can-crushing contraption at the 2016 Minnesota State Fair. Click image to enlarge.

Last year's challenge

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.

The 4-H Engineering Design Challenge for 2016 was to design and build a machine in the spirit of Rube Goldberg to crush and recycle an aluminum soft drink can. Three hundred thirty-five Minnesota 4-H youth from 35 counties formed 56 teams that rose to the challenge. Many of the teams demonstrated their machines at their county fairs, and 39 teams brought their machines to the Minnesota State Fair, where they took part in conference judging and gave demonstrations for audiences in the 4-H building.

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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