STEM & STEAM

Minecraft Rube Goldberg Contest Open Now

Students in grades 3-12 have the opportunity to participate in a new competition that encourages them to use Minecraft to come up with complicated machinery that accomplishes very little. The North America Scholastic Esports Federation is hosting the first NASEF 2021 Digital Rube Goldberg Machine Minecraft Contest. Throughout this fall, teams of students will compete by imagining, designing and building machines using the block-oriented game; then, during the second half of the academic year in 2021, there will be a finals challenge when students will string together a series of designs to create a zany chain-reaction Rube Goldberg Machine.

Rube Goldberg, who died in 1970, was a Pulitzer-Prize-winning cartoonist known for his comical chain reaction "invention cartoons." (For an entertaining example, check this YouTube video.) The contest is being supported by Rube Goldberg, Inc., a nonprofit whose focus is on STEM and STEAM activities.

NASEF, a nonprofit that encourages esports for education in K-12, is providing free registration to enable as many students as possible to participate. It's also offering free use of Minecraft Education Edition (for PCs and Chromebooks). Currently, the organization is holding livestreams on twitch.tv for teachers and students, to detail the various "mini-challenges." Those are being recorded and made available on demand. The concepts of the incline plane and pulley have already been covered and are available on the contest web page.

Minecraft Rube Goldberg Contest Open Now

Upcoming sessions will cover:

  • The screw, on Oct. 14;

  • The wedge, on Oct. 28;

  • The wheel and axle, on Nov. 11; and

  • The lever, on Dec. 2.

NASEF will also provide free coaching through its partners at Connected Camps, particularly helpful for teams that are new to Minecraft.

Teams will have 10 days to design and complete each Minecraft creation and submit a Flipgrid video describing their machine and its construction. The finals challenge, which will combine all the various elements, will run from Jan. 5 through Mar. 15, 2021. The type of machine to be built will be announced on Jan. 5.

Winners of the mini-challenges during the tutorials will be selected by raffle and receive a variety of prizes, including Rube swag. Winning teams in each division of the finals will win a team trophy and a $250 award plus a matching amount for a favorite charity as well as Rube Goldberg and NASEF stuff.

"Educators are always searching for ways to engage kids with fun programs that teach engineering and technology principles along with creativity; this year they also need to be equally available at home or in a classroom," said Tom Turner, chief education officer at NASEF, in a press release. "This exciting Minecraft competition provides a place for kids to work in teams, have fun making inventions, develop important STEAM skills--and win prizes!"

"We are so excited to partner with NASEF and Minecraft to create the first digital Rube Goldberg Machine Contest," added Jennifer George, the legacy director of Rube Goldberg, Inc. "This opportunity will bring the contest to even more students, as they use their computers to design equally creative contraptions. We can't wait to see what students come up with!"

Participation begins with registration on the NASEF website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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