Sam Lombardi

Mechanical Engineer


Rube Goldberg

A Rube Goldberg machine performs a simple task in an overly complex, elaborate, humorous sequence of linked steps.

As the Vice President of the University of Arizona’s Rube Goldberg Club, I helped lead a team that not only designed and built a Rube Goldberg machine, but also competed in an annual national competition and shared its work with local middle and high school students.

This machine applies toothpaste on a toothbrush in over 40 steps. It's themed as a movie set and we brought it to the San Antonio Maker Faire. In addition to bringing the machine to Texas, we ran the machine around campus and gained notoriety for the club. This increased our yearly funding and led to a new machine commissioned to cut the ribbon for the new UA honors village opening ceremony.

We toured local elementary and middle schools with a curriculum that explained the six simple machines, and helped students build Rube Goldberg machines of their own.

The projects require a mix of physics, engineering, art, design, and team members from multiple colleges and backgrounds. The nature of a Rube Goldberg machine demanded that our interdisciplinary team be organized, efficient, collaborative and able to communicate well. And because each step is completely dependent on all of the steps before it, the project required a high level of precision and planning to create the chaotic perfection one expects from a Rube Goldberg machine.

Here is our 2017-2018 National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest Legacy Award winning machine. Jennifer George, Rube Goldberg's granddaughter, starts our machine at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. On this run we had just 1 'intervention' along with forgetting to heat the hot plate before starting the run.