Thursday, February 20, 2020

Chain Reaction! Crazy Contraptions: Rube Goldberg Machines by Laura Perdew

Have you ever watched a line of dominoes fall? Have you ever played the game Mouse Trap? Do you like to think of complex ways to accomplish simple tasks?

You might love doing Rube Goldberg-like projects!

Rube Goldberg was a cartoonist who became famous for his comic illustrations of how to do things the hard way through science. Falling lines of dominoes were just the beginning of his ideas for cartoon creation that used everything--from monkeys, shoes, birds, alarm clocks, and dogs' wagging tales to set off chain reactions ending in some small and silly tasks. Goldberg used concepts of force and gravity from physics to create comics that have made people laugh for over 100 years.

This is the time of late winter when science projects bloom in school gyms--the time of the SCIENCE FAIR--a time when vast quantities of blank tri-fold posters yawn emptily before middle graders, waiting to be filled. And into this vast void comes a phalanx of science project books.

And among this avalanche comes Laura Perdew's new Crazy Contraptions: Build Rube Goldberg Machines that Swoop, Spin, Stack, and Swivel: with Hands-On Engineering Activities (Build It Yourself) (Nomad Press, 2019), with novel and arresting ideas for real physics projects that solve problems and promise fun for the creators and laughs for their viewers. Author Perdew provides the principles and demonstrates process and product for moving projects with photographs and illustrations of inclined planes (sliding boards, toy dump truck beds, water slides), levers (windshield wipers, catapults), wheels (pizza-cutters, pottery wheels, windmills), and other simple and complex machines that come in handy when combined into a Rube Goldberg contraption to claim for your own.

Along with diagrams, drawings, and cartoons from illustrator Micah Rauch, there are many project starter suggestions for young inventors and artists. Author Perdew also includes quite an appendix, with a glossary, an excellent list of resources for videos, materials (some recyclables), and handy tools and supplies, and an complete index, with which kids can construct their own crazy contraptions.

Says School Library Journal, "A delight for all budding engineers in elementary grades who, as Perdew puts it, 'like to think of complex ways to accomplish simple tasks.'"

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