Interactive Rube Goldberg Device

Photo of Sarah Douglass, Amy McAfoos, Adam Thelen Students: Sarah Douglass, Amy McAfoos, Adam Thelen

Sponsor: Harvest Technologies

Date: Fall 2007


First, the Rube Goldberg device needs to display Harvest Technologies products. To be used as a marketing tool, it needs to showcase the abilities of Stereolithography® and Selective Laser Sintering® technologies. Potential customers must interact with the device to initiate it such that it ultimately delivers a pen to the user. The machine needs to be resettable so that it can run continuously to maximize audience exposure. Lastly, the biggest constraint to consider is the size of the final prototype; it should be enclosed in an approximate 18” x 18” x 24” space, allowing for one person to transport the product easily.


Harvest Technologies, a rapid prototyping company, sponsored a senior design team to design and build a fully functional interactive Rube Goldberg device that ultimately delivers a logo pen to the user and showcases rapid prototyped components. Its purpose is to generate interest in the company as a marketing tool by showcasing the products and capabilities of Harvest Technologies.


The design team approached the project using a three stage design methodology, including concept generation, concept selection, and embodiment design. During concept generation, the team deveopled concepts for the theme and components of the device. Multiple alternative designs and layouts were then genereated and evaluated during using Pugh's Method. Embodiment design stage focused on the geometric modeling of individual components and the layout in SolidWorks®, selecting materials, performing work/energy and impact analysis, and prototyping proof of concept models to verify design intentions. Once the designs were finalized, Harvest Technologies prototyped them at their facility. With the final components in hand, the design team began construction on the device using wood and Plexiglas as the frame. The final prototype includes a pinball start mechanism that initially launches a steel ball bearing up a loop slide, past a cheetah, and down a plinko board, where the Ferris wheel then picks the ball up using magnets. The ball is then plucked from the top of the Ferris wheel and travels across wires, down a tree slide, across a snake slide to a funnel. It exits the funnel through a transition slide to the elephant's mouth, and finally actuates the output lever which knocks a Harvest Technologies logo pen out of the device.

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