Problem Solving and Science in Action with the Rube Works App

RubeWorks (2)Back in December, Kate Wright, 2nd grade teacher, told me that the grade level would be studying force, motion, pushes, pulls, and simple machines in the late part of 3rd quarter and they wanted to incorporate the art and inventions of Rube Goldberg.  It was a seed of an idea which I absolutely love.  I love when a seed is planted early enough that it has time to grow and expand with new opportunities.

Over the winter break, I had a follow on Twitter from Electric Eggplant , and in miraculous fashion, the seed idea began to develop.  Electric Eggplant is the developer of a new iPad app called Rube Works.  It’s the official invention game of Rube Goldberg.  I started having a Twitter conversation with them and found out that the app was on sale until the end of December.  I went ahead and purchased 30 copies knowing that it was going to be a perfect fit with the seed of an idea.

My Twitter conversation continued and I was connected with David Fox, the developer of Rube Works.  He agreed that once we got the project going, he would love to connect with us and see what the kids thought of the app.

Since that conversation, a page on Skype in the Classroom has been created for Rube Goldberg which includes the chance to Skype with David as well as Rube Goldberg’s granddaughter, Jennifer.  We added both of these to our growing seed of an idea.

RubeWorks (3)Over the past 2 days, the 2nd grade has been working in the library to use the Rube Works game.  This is a kickoff to their study of force, push, pull, and motion.  We started by watching some videos of Rube Goldberg inventions because most of the students had no idea who he was.  They were fascinated by the zany inventions to do simple, everyday things.  Some of them even launched into a brainstorm of what they would invent (which is coming as a part of our seed of an idea!)

Next, I showed students the Rube Works trailer.

They were eager to get started.  Because the Rube Works app has a reading component that does not have text to speech, the teachers paired students together so that a stronger reader was in each pair.  This helped lift this reading barrier for students, but it also gave students a brainstorming partner.  Students quickly saw that creating a Rube Goldberg invention is not a piece of cake.  It takes trial and error, risk taking, failure, problem solving, perseverance, working through frustration, and creativity to make these inventions work.  In our 35-40 minutes of work time, most pairs managed to finish the first scenario and some made great progress on the 2nd.  A few even made it to the 3rd level.

RubeWorks (5)

Even though there were moments where students could be heard saying, “This is so frustrating!” and “I just can’t get this to work!”, I didn’t see a single group stop working.  I overheard one student say, “I thought first levels were supposed to be easy!”, but she didn’t give up.  When we gathered back on the floor, we talked about how we all get frustrated, but it’s what we do with that frustration that matters.  The teachers brought up a classroom discussion that they have been having with students about perseverance, and this was such a great connection to help them feel what it’s like to persevere through something even when it’s hard. It was so rewarding to students be successful after multiple attempts.

I encouraged students to keep their solutions a secret but to feel free to give one another hints, which is yet another skill that we pulled into this lesson.  We wanted every person to work to figure out these puzzles without someone just giving away the solution.  Students didn’t want to quit after our hour together and they are eager to continue working with this app in their classroom.

When I asked students and teachers about some things that they love, they mentioned things like:

  • clear instructions
  • hints
  • the ability to test your invention multiple times along the way
  • that the app shows you the actual drawing that Rube Goldberg made after you finish a level
  • that it was challenging but fun

We look forward to continuing to explore this app and incorporate what we’ve learned into our own Rube Goldberg inventions.

RubeWorks (6)

3 thoughts on “Problem Solving and Science in Action with the Rube Works App

  1. David Fox says:

    Andy, this is so wonderful! I’m looking forward to speaking with your class via Skype!

  2. […] Second grade has been studying force and motion as a part of their science standards.  We kicked off this unit in the library by learning about the inventions of Rube Goldberg and exploring the Rube Works app for iPad. […]

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