By Tremaine M. Davis
Science Teacher, Summit Academy Transition High School – Cincinnati

Science teacher Tremaine “Tre” Davis’ classroom lesson in kinetic energy inspired student Caleb Olliges to put the Rube Goldberg concepts he learned in class to task. The ninth-grade Summit Academy Transition High School – Cincinnati student invented a Self-propelled Shoe Shine System by applying the mechanical theories Davis taught his students recently. Who knows, maybe a lesson in applying for a patent should follow suit!

Technology has given us the ability to utilize machines in a variety of practical ways from helping us accomplish simple tasks, such as vacuuming our room spaces (Roomba®) to more complex devices used in medical procedures (robotic surgical systems). I feel these wonderful technological devices share a common predecessor…Rube Goldberg concepts!

Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg (Rube Goldberg) was an inventor, engineer and cartoonist who created elaborate machines using a chain reaction of kinetic energy. Students in my physical science class at Summit Academy Transition High School – Cincinnati explored some techniques to create simple Rube Goldberg machines.

This was the first time that our students ever explored this topic in detail because oftentimes we had limited resources or not enough academic time with the students. This was an extraordinary opportunity for them.

This student-centered challenge allowed the students to work collaboratively or independently with similar aged peers, plan strategically, sketch drawings, sequence multiple steps, watch instructional videos, review the concepts of simple machines, enhance critical thinking skills, innovate and simply have fun. Our students exceeded this challenge by allowing themselves to dive into this experience and learn outside of their comfort zones.

Most students were successful with their original design concepts. Student Caleb Olliges was emphatic with the idea and wanted to continue to learn outside the classroom and share this experience with his family.

Caleb created the Self-propelled Shoe Shine System. The invention would allow its users to operate the pedals with their hands giving them increased biceps and newly shined shoes in the process, he described. When asked what motivated his creation, Caleb responded, “I wanted an easier way to shine my shoes.”