Invention Convention

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Who Was Rube Goldberg?

The Grasshopper Catcher, developed around 1870, was a creative invention. It was designed to solve a very difficult problem faced by early Iowa settlers-too many grasshoppers! The unknown inventor combined available materials to make a clever machine. It didn't work very well, but the inventor used his or her imagination in creative ways.

Many new machines were being developed at this time. Some of these inventions were more successful than others.

Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) was an unusual inventor. He believed there were two ways to do things, the simple way and the hard way. He observed that a lot of people preferred doing things the hard way!

As a young man he went to school to become an engineer, but what he really loved was drawing cartoons. He combined both of these talents when he became famous for his weird and interesting cartoon inventions.

One of his inventions was designed to "simplify" the job of sharpening a pencil. Another of his inventions helped clean shop windows.


  1. Explore the Rube Goldberg Gallery and check out some of the invention resources online below.
  2. Identify one of your jobs at home or in the classroom.
  3. Create a "Rube Goldberg" to make this job more "simple."
  4. Draw your invention on a piece of paper. Make sure to number or letter the parts.
  5. Develop a paragraph description for your invention. Refer to the labeled parts when describing how your machine works.
  6. Share your invention with your teacher and classmates at a Rube Goldberg Invention Convention.

Invention Resources Online

Games Machines Play
Fun PBS videos of new inventions

Kids Invent
Dr. Ed helps you plan, design, build, test and market an original idea.

U.S. Patent Office Kid's Pages
Use your imagination and invent

Inventing Modern America: From the Microwave to the Mouse
Profiles thirty-five inventors and their creation of everyday objects, exploring the life and work of five of these scientists. Choose one of the inventors' qualities: courage, insight, know-how, vision, and perseverance, and learn more about them.Inventors and Inventions
Enchanted Learning's A -Z easy-to-use listing of inventors

History of Inventions
PBS presents this timeline from the lightning rod to Hubble telescope. It offers a timeline of inventions from 1752 to the present.

Inventions and Their Inventors
Discover the stories behind the invention of the tools, machines, and work-saving devices you use on a regular basis; you may be surprised at how some common, everyday things (and many not-so-common things) really came into existence.

Invention Dimension
Each week Invention Dimension profiles a different American inventor. The Invention Archives are organized alphabetically by invention. To view inventions, click on one of the blue letters.

Invention Sites for Kids
Read about inventors of the ski, sailboard, surgical robot, unfolding structures, water purifier, barbed wire, Velcro, Kevlar, post-it note, microwave, high-efficiency wind turbine, and telephone. See sketches of the first telephone. Try your hand at a puzzle or word game, or draw your own sketch online

National Gallery for America's Young Inventors
Run by the Partnership for America's Future, Inc., the Gallery houses award-winning inventions created by the youth of America.

The Farnsworth Chronicles
A bored 13-year-old plowing the fields of his father's farm? This hardly seems the fertile ground for the idea of television. But that's how Philo T. Farnsworth first began thinking of his revolutionary invention. The chronicles are like chapters in the life of Farnsworth. Did he ever get full credit for his invention? Tune into the Farnsworth Chronicles to find out!

Smithsonian: Inventors and Innovation

4,000 Years of Women in Science
Biographies and pictures of over 125 women who have contributed to the history of science and technology.

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