Behind the scenes of our summer cover, a working Rube Goldberg machine

The classic school project with a sporty, PopSci twist.

PopSci Rube Goldberg machine
A spinning, kicking, contraption of a cover.The Voorhes

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The Rube Goldberg machine above is not the first that art and photography duo The Voorhes have created. But building one composed exclusively of playthings that fit on an 8-foot-by-8-foot bright-yellow wall while still leaving room for the text on the cover—that was a whole other challenge.

The two started by looking at items featured in this issue to figure out what role they could take on. A golf club could flip up and tip something over; a camp stove could pop popcorn; with the help of a spring, a boxing glove attached to a skateboard could push a button.

Using pulleys, string, and hinges to make the 19 doodads interact with one another was the next tricky bit. Some elements, like the basketball hoop and bicycle wheel, were just too big to fit, so the couple swapped them out for kid-size versions. The best part is that this intricate apparatus is more than a prop for a photo op—it actually works.

This story appeared in the Summer 2020, Play issue of Popular Science.