NASEF launches Minecraft meets Rube Goldberg competition

The months-long event is free for students and schools looking to take part in this fun, mind-bending exercise where new technology converges with old-fashioned innovation
By: | September 16, 2020
An example of a Rube Goldberg machine. (Jeffrey Coolidge/Getty Images)

Think about the many gadgets that, even as recently as a decade ago, have become outdated. Continuous advances in technology have rendered many of them useless, worthless and unimaginative, especially to the most impressionable young minds.

Students have smart phones and smart watches, lightning-fast gaming devices and video games that can keep them occupied for hours. Board games and toys that once inspired their predecessors now collect dust in closets and on thrift store shelves.

So what in the world did the  North America Scholastic Esports Federation see in digging up the wonderfully simplistic but timestamped ideas of Rube Goldberg in its latest education initiative?

Gold. Pure gold.

NASEF is more than an organization focused on delivering the thrilling realm of esports to K-12 students. It pushes the bounds of those games and others in inspiring innovative academic curriculum and projects. So when it announced it was sponsoring a competition that combined Minecraft: Education Edition and Rube Goldberg, social media boards lit up and wheels started turning for those teachers and districts looking for a new spark.

“Educators are always searching for ways to engage kids with fun programs that teach engineering and technology principles along with creativity; this year they also need to be equally available at home or in a classroom,” said Tom Turner, chief education officer at NASEF. “This exciting Minecraft competition provides a place for kids to work in teams, have fun making inventions, develop important STEAM skills – and win prizes.”

Registration for the one-of-a-kind competition opened today and is free to all schools and districts that are interested. NASEF is looking to get as many students on board so it is also offering the free use of Minecraft: Education Edition (for PCs and Chromebooks). NASEF says it will host a “pre-season” of mini-challenges for teachers and students to hone engineering skills in Minecraft and is providing free coaching from its partners at Connected Camps.

Among the early challenges that must be utilized in the building blocks game: an incline plane (Sept. 16), pulley (Sept. 30), screw (Oct. 14), wedge (Oct. 28), wheel and axle (Nov. 11) and lever (Dec. 2). Teams comprised of students in grades 3-12 (ages 8-18) must complete their creations within 10 days and submit a Flipgrid video describing their machine and its construction.

NASEF says the second half of the academic year in 2021 will feature a finals challenge, as students “string together a series of those designs to create a zany chain-reaction Rube Goldberg Machine.”

Students and teachers can catch livestreams that detail those challenges on demand at  twitch.tv/INSIDEPARTICIPATE.

“We are so excited to partner with NASEF and Minecraft to create the first digital Rube Goldberg Machine Contest,” said Jennifer George, the legacy director of Rube Goldberg, Inc., the not-for-profit that bears her grandfather’s name. “This opportunity will bring the contest to even more students, as they use their computers to design equally creative contraptions. We can’t wait to see what students come up with!”

NASEF also plans to hold several “Beyond the Game” challenges for students in areas such as cartooning, graphic design, social media, story-telling, and engineering.


Chris Burt is a reporter and editor for District Adminstration and the Program Chair for the Academic Esports Conference and Expo. He can be reached at cburt@lrp.com


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