Rube Goldberg Nametag

Rube Goldberg Nametag

by aniketosen | updated November 24, 2013

To introduce myself, I'm going to build a Rube Goldberg machine in the style of Pythagoras Switch!



To introduce myself, I'm going to build a Rube Goldberg machine in the style of Pythagoras Switch!

October 30, 2013 at 12:18 PM
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Pythagoras Switch (Japanese "Pitagora Suichi") is an educational Japanese television show that plays videos of their Rube Goldberg machines (called Pythagorean Devices outside the US) between each segment. They are made up of very simple pieces to make incredibly complex machines. I loved them the first time I saw them, and thought to introduce myself and my love of all things unnecessarily complex, I'd make my own!

October 30, 2013 at 5:30 PM
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I've watched this video like a bajillion times now. Soo happy you introduced me to this
about 3 years ago

Pythagoras switch uses very simple pieces, so I decided to limit myself to more or less what I had in my dorm room that *wasn't* my personal arsenal of crafting tools. Scissors and exacto knife sure, but I figured I shouldn't assume that scrap wood and a dremel could be found in anyone's house. The thermomorph plastic is also a stretch, but I love it so much that I'm going to use this opportunity to tout how much fun it is. I ended up with lots of tape, glue, (big) straws, skewers, small balls, glue gun, lots of paper and cardstock, and other miscellaneous things. It's a loose starting point though, I might well add more if I think they will work well.

October 30, 2013 at 6:27 PM
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This step will be where I house all my sketches, so it should update rather frequently. I am of the mindset that anything I make, I should sketch first, so I have a better idea of exactly what I want to end up with. It's also excellent for documentation if I happen to use a cool trick I've never used before, since now I have it on paper in case I give away the piece.

November 3, 2013 at 1:56 AM
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I first tried to prototype an idea I got from the end of Super Mario levels, when you jump to the flag and it falls down the pole. The idea here is that instead of my finger, it'll be some moderately heavy object (i.e., no foam) that hits the bottom switch, pulling the top switch out from under the bead and letting it slide down the skewer. Also, the skewer is covered in green masking tape, in the hopes that this would slow down the bead's descent. It didn't, but it's still a nice color.

November 3, 2013 at 1:01 AM
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cool! maybe a green pipe cleaner or something with more friction?
about 3 years ago

Ehehe, the original plan was to start at the end and work backwards, but I realized a common way to power things in Pythagoras' Switch's clips was to have something unwind, which I thought would be a great idea to start with. The first try was with a paint tube "battering ram" to hit the weight (chicken noodle soup) off of it's hanger so it falls to the floor, and the string is pulled up and unwound.

Bust. Despite the string I have happening to be very smooth, the chicken noodle soup can had a bit of a lip, and the paint tube just couldn't push it out.

November 3, 2013 at 6:51 PM
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Second try was a success! Also, second try of second try was a success, since I couldn't get the bottle down on the first try, heh. Replaced the noodle soup can with a smoother paint bottle, which despite being a lot lighter was still enough to bring down the string.

Now to figure out what to attach it to...

November 3, 2013 at 6:55 PM
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the zoom on the smiley face was priceless. Keep it up!
about 3 years ago
love it!
about 3 years ago

Are really hard by hand! But possible!

Lots of troubles while doing this, mainly the teeth not being quite the right shape. One of the photos shows me holding the big gear with the little gear attached because the teeth weren't meshing right. I had to shave the teeth on both gears until they fit right.

Tips! As long as the teeth are the same size, everything will be okay. For example, my big gear is 4" in diameter with 1/4" tall teeth, and my little gear is half the diameter with half the number of 1/4" teeth. The idea is to attach the big gear to a shaft that the "motor" is attached to, and via the magic of gear ratios, make the little gear spin twice as fast. I'm no expert on gear ratios, but if you want to learn more, google is a good thing to ask.

I used a cooking skewer as a temporary shaft, and a straw to hold them in place while allowing them to rotate.

November 12, 2013 at 2:29 AM
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this is awesome! math is the best.
about 3 years ago

I think I've gotten to a point where I'm going to start just working backwards, making sure the last step works, then the second to last, then third to last, etc.

Starting with building a better flag dropper. Made this one out of foam core for sturdiness.

Tips on foam core corners: One of the ways I know I show here, by cutting out a little bit and folding the piece on itself, fitting into the slot you just made. The other way is to just crush a line of foam core where you want to bend it, then bend it and hot glue it into submission. This works, but I think it's a bit messier and not as clean/sturdy of a bend. Still useful, though! Like maybe for something that needs to bend a little from its angle and then bounce back.

November 12, 2013 at 8:59 PM
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nice foamcore techniques! maria would be so proud.
about 3 years ago

Doo de doo~!

I babble in this video!

November 12, 2013 at 9:04 PM
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Ehehe, so unfortunately the problem with my Most Clever Turny Design is that it requires a lot of force to hit. So instead, to get enough force, I tied a thread from the top of the dropper down to the table, and hit it with a big tub of hair wax. The top is a bit bigger than the rest of the tub, so I taped a ruler down next to the smaller side so it wouldn't curve that way.

I also put it up at the tip top of a large ramp at first, and then realized that it didn't need to be so fast, so I squished my ramp (made from a crush-folded piece of foamcore, I told you it would be a useful fold!) to be less steep.

November 12, 2013 at 9:09 PM
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Just bulked up the back so the tub can rest on it. It'll be important soon!

Edit: This was just redone about four times. I'm trying to find a balance between "not going to fall" and "but will fall with a very small amount of force."

November 16, 2013 at 7:42 PM
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Pinwheel out of a square of printer paper, you can find a simple pattern online very quickly.

I hot glued it to the same skewer as the little gear, but had to borrow a friend's hot glue. Warning if you plan on getting a hot glue gun or sticks! As far as I know they seem to come in three sizes, the big glue gun sticks, and the mini glue gun sticks in .28" and .27". I got a few sticks from a friend and used them in my little glue gun, and it gummed up horribly. I think what happened was that my glue gun takes .27" and I was using .28" sticks :( Who designed this!? Ugh. Anyway, a think to keep in mind.

I also have some big straws for tapioca tea, which I cut small slits into to hold the skewer. Then I taped them to a cup so the pinwheel would be at the right height, and ran into a problem: the cup is too big around! Need to go find a skinnier something...

November 16, 2013 at 8:48 PM
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nice use of bubble tea straws!
about 3 years ago

A bottle of mirin! Same height, lots thinner. However, I'm using this to cook in a few minutes, so I think I'll do that before I keep going.

November 16, 2013 at 8:57 PM
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So the mirin bottle ended up still being too wide, so I finally bit the bullet and taped one straw to the table as best I could, and hot glued a small straw into the slot, so that the skewer can rotate freely within it. Hopefully this will be strong enough....

November 17, 2013 at 5:19 PM
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I mean, it's tilting a little because the pinwheel is heavy, but not nearly as bad as I thought it would, so this might just be Sturdy Enough.

November 17, 2013 at 5:37 PM
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I just thought the little globules of hot glue on top of the straws looked pretty cool.

November 17, 2013 at 5:38 PM
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With one rule: for some reason (probably due to some torque in a direction I don't want) I can only make it spin if all of the string is wound up to the right of the place the string is glued onto. But the gears work! They don't line up perfectly but they do catch enough to spin the pinwheel rather fast. Yay!

November 17, 2013 at 6:01 PM
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After several tries which included changing out the rope for hopefully less frictionful thread, and adding a new gear to help it spin, the pinwheel doesn't have enough power to topple the cards :(

A new plan must be hatched.

(Also, this video has no audio. I accidentally left my door open while recording and it was loud enough in the hall that I thought it would be better to cut it.)

November 22, 2013 at 10:08 PM
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After some ten-odd takes, it is done! In place of the pinwheel, I attached a pen to some string, in the hopes that moving it about would either 1) tap the cards or 2) move the air enough to tip the cards. Yay! Bit fuzzy at the end, but that's my name ("ALYSSA") on the flag. My camera is trying its very hardest, I promise!

I think if I ever make another Rube Goldberg machine, I'll invest in some nice string. I had on me some thread, which I ended up using for the "motor" because my other option was some twine I bought at the packing store, which is remarkably smooth and hard to tie knots in.

Hm, you know what else would have been good to have, Hot Wheels tracks and cars, so I could roll things about. Maybe some marbles, too.

Anyway, that's my introduction. Hello out there!

November 22, 2013 at 10:19 PM
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nice! it happened so fast. it would be cool to see it in slow-motion, particularly the pinwheel / gears part. maybe if you could steal someone's iphone 5s to do a slo-mo video (if the whole contraption isn't already taken apart!)
about 3 years ago
...also, some close up pictures of the different parts of the final design would be great. =D
about 3 years ago
I can definitely get close-ups of the parts, but I don't know about the slo-mo video. Will keep trying for a bit.
about 3 years ago

4 photos for a closer look at each step.

1. The extra wheel and thread for the motor. The wheel is to give the thread a bit more torque so it can get the gears spinning, rather than just trying to pull the whole system up. I switched to thread because the big string was too big to wind on this wheel and it was sort of slippy and not gluing well.

2. Gears! The extra skewer is to help them stay aligned.

3. Pen-cards-tub. When the gears start spinning, they lower the pen down into the card house, toppling it into the tub, sending the tub down the ramp...

4. And into the flag dropper! Red ruler is there to keep the tub from running off the table.

November 24, 2013 at 12:06 AM
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It's nearly the same video, just slowed down so everything is a bit more visible. In other news, I did this by uploading the real time video to youtube, and youtube now has a built in function to slow down videos by set increments. Yay!

November 24, 2013 at 12:45 AM
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cool! didn't know youtube had a slo-motion feature. ( :
about 3 years ago