Review of Crazy Contraptions, by Laura Perdew

Crazy Contraptions

Build Rube Goldberg Machines That Swoop, Spin, Stack, and Swivel
With Hands-on Engineering Activities

by Laura Perdew
illustrated by Micah Rauch

Nomad Press, 2019. 122 pages.
Review written April 13, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

This is another book I’d planned to booktalk in 2020 but hadn’t actually gotten around to reading until the library closed for the pandemic. I still hope to booktalk it some day, and I’d even like to do a Rube-Goldberg-Machine-Building program inspired by its approach.

This is a book that teaches kids how to make Rube Goldberg machines, or I should say inspires kids to create their own Rube Goldberg machines.

I love the approach. First, they start with the overall concept and tell about Rube Goldberg. But then they present each of the six types of simple machines and suggest activities of trying out that type of simple machine in your own creation.

For example, here’s the first activity in the Inclined Planes chapter:

Use an inclined plane and something that can roll or slide down the plane to knock over an object. Yes, this is a ridiculous little task! That’s what crazy contraptions are all about.

With each activity, they have the reader brainstorm ideas and supplies, draw a plan, build, test, evaluate, and possibly redesign.

The next exercise has you build a pyramid and use two inclined planes to knock it down.

Further activities include ringing a bell using both a lever and an inclined plane, watering a plant using a homemade conveyor belt (with wheels), rolling dice using at least one inclined plane, one lever, one wheel and axle, and one pulley, and launching a boat with a contraption that includes a wedge that separates or splits two things apart.

Challenges at the end include making a over-sized contraption in your yard and making a micro-sized contraption that you can fit in a box.

It’s all fun and playful and just packed with science. There are QR-codes linked to videos that demonstrate related principles. I confess I didn’t follow the QR-codes, but kids who do will become even more engaged.

I went through a time when I was a kid that I loved making domino runs. This book will take kids far beyond that. Perfect for kids who like to tinker.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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