I teach a homeschool DIY/hacking class and when I gave my kids the assignment of working on a Rube Goldberg machine, I really expected a domino/marble run. One of the parents lent out her basement, and the kids promptly kicked all the parents out, including me.
What followed, encompassed 3 kids working 50 hours over 3 weeks including 3 sleepovers so they could work late.
My takaway lessons
1. I showed the kids a few professional Rube Goldberg machines but also showed them some college ones. One of college videos included the number of attempts it took to get the machine going. This was invaluable as it took well over 200 tries to get this one working.
2. The kids had a very low quality materials. This may have spurred their imagination, but made the machine a lot more difficult to get working. A little pvc and nails would have gone a long way.
3. Letting the kids work on it alone was difficult, but ultimately paid off. The kids really had total ownership of the project and it paid big dividends when one of the kids was ready to walk out on the assignment and the other 2 decided to keep going (the first kid came back to the project a few minutes later).
4. They learned a great lesson on the power of persistence (Which could have been taught in a shorter time frame). I thought the value was in learning to hack. Another parent thought it was the physics. One of the parents thought the kids already knew the physics but valued the social skills. Ultimately I'm not quite sure what the lesson was, but I know it was something amazing.
5. The kids really came together as a team and bounced ideas off of each other, but they also learned to argue with each other without taking it personally.
6. The kids had a deadline because the basement was needed for a weekend guest. Without this deadline, it would have taken a lot longer, and they might not have gelled as a team quite as much. However, the first successful run came less than five minutes before the hard deadline for cleaning the room and it was very stressful for me as a teacher.
7. Because they had tried so many times before, the kids hadn't quite realized they were successful. the video ended about 10 seconds before the screaming began. Next time, keep the camera going.