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Rube Goldberg comes alive at library

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By Katrina Margolis
Hometown Weekly Reporter

Rube Goldberg drew 50,000 cartoons over the course of his lifetime, depicting some of the craziest, wackiest, and most complicated ways of completing simple tasks. His illustrations included using a magnifying glass with the sun to create an alarm clock, or knocking over a domino using a series of marbles, ramps, and pulleys.

On Saturday, July 22nd, children eight and over were invited to create their own Rube Goldberg machines at the Needham Public Library, led by Jay Mankita. Sponsored by the Friends of the Needham Public Library, Mankita provided the insight, know-how, and materials to create all manner of Goldberg-esque inventions.

“These machines are very ridiculous, and very silly and fun, but they do teach us about things like simple machines,” Mankita told his audience. “Pulley, lever, wedge, screw, inclined plane, wheel and axle. Those are the six classical simple machines and we use them all in this workshop.” Despite the absurdity of many of Goldberg’s designs, Mankita used them as an excellent opportunity to teach kids about simple machines, basic physics, and the flow of energy. With him, Mankita brought dominoes, popsicle sticks, marbles, pulleys, a variety of balls, and much more to allow kids to experiment. “They’re not going to be perfect, we’re going to make mistakes, but we’re going to celebrate the parts that do work and see every mistake as an opportunity to learn, to improve, to grow!” he added.

Mankita is not only a Goldberg enthusiast, but a musician as well. His song, “Eat Like a Rainbow,” won a Parent’s Choice award, and the title track from that album is on a CD distributed in over 100 countries. His assemblies and workshops promote action and awareness on kindness, community, littering and recycling, wellness and nutrition, and creativity. This summer, all of his workshops work to promote the summer reading program theme of “Build a Better World.” His son, Mojo, who is also a Goldberg enthusiast and has built a variety of his own machines, was also in attendance.

While kids were invited to explore any type of machine they wanted, Mankita and his son helped build a few structures they were familiar with, including a domino tower which falls in sequence, and a popsicle stick snake that “explodes.” His workshop promoted creativity, inventiveness, teamwork, and persistence.

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