Rube Works: The Official Rube Goldberg Invention Game
by By Electric Eggplant, Published by Unity Games

Price at time of review: $2.99 for iOS, $1.99 for Android, $4.99 for Mac
Unity Games

Grade Level: 4-College

Reviewed by Coralee Smith
Associate Professor Elementary Education and Reading

Think of the time you spent as a student learning and relearning about simple machines. Then think of the times you were supposed to combine simple machines into complex machines by looking at examples. If you were like me, it was pretty much a ho–hum experience until a science teacher introduced me to the famous and funny Rube Goldberg cartoons.

Then, like magic, you were hooked on trying to figure out how those clever contraptions should work. I would take my pencil and track the possibilities to make the crazy machines work. However, until now, you could either use a pencil to trace those machines or, if you were highly enterprising, you would attempt to even build something that reflected a Rube Goldberg apparatus. I have some amazing good news for all of us Rube Goldberg science fans! There is an app for that!

There is an "official" app approved by the Rube Goldberg estate and with input from Rube Goldberg’s granddaughter, Jennifer George. It is named Rube Works: The Official Rube Goldberg Invention Game. Please don’t let the name containing the word “game” influence you into thinking of this as just another game, because it is not merely a game. It is an interactive adventure where the user is presented a problem, like how to turn the lights off without getting out of bed, then actually builds Rube Goldberg a contraption using items in a toolbox that may contain something like ice, a bucket, or a super sponge; and then tests, tests, and tests outcomes. If by chance, the outcome is not what was expected, hints are provided to the user. However, a word to the wise, sometimes the hints are presented as problems within themselves.

The app begins with a tutorial where the user is systematically introduced to the app’s components. Immediately the user is immersed into trying to complete the first of the 18 possible levels of Rube Goldberg machine craziness. Once you complete the task, another level opens and rewards are provided. Beware: you need to try multiple things and multiple ways to reach a possible outcome. Determination and a large amount of patience are required. Considering this, I recommend this app for upper elementary age learners to adults. Actually, it has kept me designing and testing for quite a while. While on the other hand, my 11 year–old tech–head granddaughter zipped through the first few levels while verbalizing each step based on her current 6th grade science topic of simple machines.

This app aligns with English Language Arts Core State Standards (CCSS) in the Reading Science and Technical Subjects RST.6–8.2, RST.6–8.3, RST.6–8.7, RST.6–8.8, RST.6–8.9. In addition, this app incorporates the next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) aligning with the Engineering Design (MS–ETS1–1, MS–ETS1–2, MS–ETS1–3, MS–ETS1–4) and Energy (HS–PS3–3, MS–PS3–2, MS–PS3–5). In fact, the Next Generation Science Standard of HS–PS3–3, Energy, clarification statement includes the following that students who demonstrate and understand can: “Design, build, and refine a device that works within given constraints to convert one form of energy into another form of energy." [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on both qualitative and quantitative evaluations of devices. Examples of devices could include Rube Goldberg devices, wind turbines, solar cells, solar ovens, and generators….] This app is amazing and rich on so many levels.

Skills that are used in this app are higher ordered thought processes, critical thinking skills, problem solving, reading in the science and technical subject areas, testing and retesting. Of course, the retail price is a bargain at under $3.00 at this time. It is available on iPad, iPhone, or Android. I highly recommend this app for individuals, but I urge science teachers to move from the pencil paper versions of the Rube Goldberg cartoons that were commonly used in the past when teaching simple and complex machine into the 21st Century using technology to actually build Rube Goldberg contraptions based on the Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards. This app is now out for Mac, and coming soon to other platforms

Review posted on 3/20/2014

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