L. Van Den Einde, J. Tuazon, D. Dodgen

University of California, San Diego (UNITED STATES)
The maker movement combines ingenious makers and innovative technologies such as the Arduino microcontroller and personal 3D printing to drive innovation in manufacturing, engineering, industrial design, hardware technology and education. To stay abreast with the maker movement and to improve retention and enhance career preparedness, the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) started the Experience Engineering “E4 Design initiative” focused on the development of Design-Make-Break courses throughout all four years of the engineering curriculum. A brand new structural engineering graphics and design course was developed at UCSD to teach freshmen the fundamental concepts of SolidWorks and AutoCAD as they relate to engineering design. The primary objective of the course was for students to apply relevant sketching, 2D and 3D techniques and skills using modern engineering tools in a team-based setting to design and manufacture parts of a larger system.

To accomplish these goals, teams of students worked together to create a complete Rube Goldberg machine using laser cutting and 3D printing manufacturing techniques that were taught within the course. The purpose of a Rube Goldberg machine is to intentionally over-engineer a complicated machine or contraption to runs through a series of chain-reaction events to perform a simple task. Teams of 3-4 were required to design mechanisms to remain within the boundaries of a Rube Cube base plate but with no height restrictions. Their Rube Cubes were required to be energized by gravity alone and had to be made from only the materials provided. Each Rube Cube had to design a required number of mechanisms that contained unique 3D printed parts and acrylic pieces. Teams combined with several other teams to make one Rube Goldberg machine, working together to ensure that their individual Rube Cube interfaced well with the cube before and after their cube. The goal was to have the slowest overall Rube Goldberg time, from start to finish. Project deliverables included conceptual hand sketches, Solidworks models of their 3D printed components, AutoCAD drawings of their laser cut components, team design reviews, conference design reviews, a Solidworks assembly model of their entire Rube Cube, a technical poster, and a full construction drawing set.

Initial feedback from a survey found that despite an incredibly heavy work load, 65% of the students really enjoyed the hands-on portion of the project, and 84% of the students have a better appreciation of the iterative design process to meet their design objectives. Additionally, 84% of the students said that the term project allowed them to improve their graphical communication skills. In addition to the technical and hands-on skills, students learned about working in teams, communication and time management skills. Many students indicated that the term project was a “great way to include everything we learned throughout the quarter into something fun”. This paper summarizes the challenges faced with developing the Rube Goldberg project, and provides recommendations for how to implement hands-on, team based projects into first year design courses.