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Educational Toys: Rube Goldberg Partnership Sets Miracle Machines in Motion

By Gary Symons

TLL Editor in Chief

Journalists are supposed to declare any biases they may have, so let me first admit I’m a huge fan of Rube Goldberg machines. The fact I’m terrible at making them just makes them all the more fascinating, as marbles tip over dominoes, which launch a rocket into the air, which pops a balloon, which releases a weight, which sets off a catapult, which … well, you get the idea.

For that reason, we love the new partnership with the Rube Goldberg Institute for licensed STEM and STEAM educational toys based on the Rube Goldberg concept.

Rube Goldberg-inspired ‘Miracle Machines’ teach cause and effect in a fun and hilarious way.

In a deal brokered by Brand Central, Miracle Recreation has announced a strategic partnership with The Rube Goldberg Institute For Innovation & Creativity. The non-profit organization was formed to encourages creativity and access to STEM and STEAM education through the creation of comical and overly complicated chain-reaction machines that achieve a simple task. The partnership was brokered by Rube Goldberg’s consumer products agency, Brand Central.

If you don’t know the background, the term Rube Goldberg Machine comes from the Pulitzer Prize winning American cartoonist best known for his comical chain reaction “invention cartoons,” which were published in the weekly comics in hundreds of newspapers.

The overwhelming popularity of these drawings made him and his cartoons a cultural icon, an adjective in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and a term which is invoked daily in American media and by thousands of individuals. The concept behind all Rube Goldberg invention cartoons—complicated and funny ways to accomplish simple tasks—is responded to universally. Some great examples of Rube Goldberg machines can be seen in the music videos from the band OK Go, like the one below. Trust me, watching this will instantly improve your day.

 

In the first of many collaborations that celebrate the spirit of noted cartoonist and engineer Rube Goldberg, Miracle introduced its Miracle Machines product line at the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) annual conference and EXPO, at the Music City Center in Nashville, Tennessee. The Miracle Machines were on display at the Miracle booth Nov. 20 and 21. 

Three oversized, double-sided panels — “Curiosity Thrilled the Cat”, “My Cup of Tea” and “Goooaaalll” — allow children to create constant motion using mechanisms such as levers, gears, pegs, balls, and spinners. Designed for ages 2 and up, Miracle Machines encourage collaborative play, while also creating a dynamic and interactive experience that keeps kids engaged for hours. Each panel design embodies Goldberg’s zeitgeist and serve as a gateway into STEM and STEAM learning for children. 

 “Miracle is thrilled to kick off this collaboration with The Rube Goldberg Institute that celebrates creativity and inclusiveness, especially in children,” said Mike Sutton, vice president of global sales for Miracle. “We are excited for the Miracle Machines to foster an entirely new level of playground interactivity, becoming in and of themselves destinations for kids. These simple machines help serve as a reminder that STEM and STEAM learning can happen anywhere.” 

As a cultural icon of the 20th century, Rube Goldberg (1883–1970), continues to inspire audiences with his inventive genius. Of the estimated 50,000 cartoons he drew in his lifetime, Goldberg is best known for those that depict “Rube Goldberg Machines” — the chain-reaction contraptions, typically made from everyday objects, that solve a simple task in the most overly complicated, humorous, and inefficient way possible.

In their funny functionality, Goldberg’s inventions invite all of us to think more deeply about machines and mechanized processes, gadgets and technologies, and the very human ways in which we use them. 

Jennifer George, Goldberg’s granddaughter and the chief creative officer of The Rube Goldberg Institute, was instrumental in building the relationship with Miracle and shaping the vision behind the Miracle Machines. 

“This partnership with Miracle is an exciting next extension for the Rube Goldberg brand,” said George. “These first three Miracle Machines bring the whimsy and kinetic energy of my grandfather’s work to life in a fun and tangible way. As this partnership expands, we hope to bring STEM and STEAM education into playgrounds where kids and machines will interact together, making outdoor learning as compelling and educational as being in the classroom.“

Miracle Machines are a perfect complement to the brand’s currently available Miracle Museum collection of products that create a children’s-museum-like experience on the playground. Generally not requiring safety surfacing, Miracle Machines and Miracle Museum commercial products are a perfect way to turn underutilized spaces such as lobbies, waiting areas and shopping centers, into sensory-rich play areas. The Miracle Museum product line is also on display at the ASLA Conference and EXPO.

“The Miracle Machines project was fun for our industrial designers, and also very challenging, given what’s required of commercial playgrounds from a ruggedness, durability and weather-proofing standpoint,” said Sutton. “Not unlike Rube Goldberg machines, our design team overcame many complicated obstacles to achieve an elegantly simple result: putting smiles on the faces of kids.”

The Miracle Machines will be available for purchase in the first quarter of 2022. 


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