How To Become A Rube Goldberg Machine Builder

"I’ve never danced, but to me it feels like dance; you’re doing this little choreography with motion."

Brett Doar

Doar and others spent 2.5 weeks building a Rube Goldberg machine for a GoldieBlox commercial. They used baby dolls, feather boas, a teapot, and other toys as parts.Steve Payne

Brett Doar tried architecture, drove buses, and edited films before carving out a career designing absurdly intricate Rube Goldberg machines. His latest project: a kinetic sculpture made of toys and household objects to advertise GoldieBlox, a construction set for girls. Here’s how Doar orchestrated his unique living.

How did you start out?

I was always building little toys. One was a spring-powered gun that launched sharpened coat-hanger pieces. I sent that to someone as a thank-you after a job interview, and he said, ‘You need to think of this as art.’ That was the moment I started to take it seriously.

What was your big break?

The band OK Go put out a call for someone to build a Rube Goldberg machine for their music video. My friend saw it and said, ‘If anybody should do this, it should be you.’ At first, the project was a free-for-all, but then I became a lead designer.

Do you plan everything out first?

I rarely start with sketches. Sometimes it’s just getting a bunch of parts and getting on the floor and trying to see how they talk to one another. You have a conversation with the materials. I’ve never danced, but to me it feels like dance; you’re doing this little choreography with motion.

How do you feel about this being your career?

It’s hilarious. It’s surprising. And the living is variable.

This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Popular Science.