The Rube Goldberg Institute and Miracle Recreation Announce Plans for an Inventive STEM Playground

The Rube Goldberg Institute, a family-run nonprofit that uses the artist's invention cartoons as a springboard for its work in STEM and STEAM Education, announced a partnership with Miracle® Recreation, a pioneer in manufacturing thrilling playgrounds for nearly a century, to launch the Rube Goldberg Playground Contest. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity invites kids, college students, professional designers and anyone who dreams big to design a Rube-inspired playground, or even just one component of a playground, and submit their ideas to enter the competition.

With submissions split into two divisions, Junior (ages 17 and under) and Senior (ages 18+, including college students and professionals), the Playground Contest invites designers, dreamers and tinkerers to flex their creativity and imagine new structures for outdoor play based on Rube Goldberg's iconic invention cartoons. The contest is free to enter and builds on 35+ years of The Institute's experience running Rube Goldberg Machine Contests® around the world. 

Entrants will submit their digitally designed pitch decks by Thursday, Oct. 17, 2024, at 11:59 p.m. EDT. Participants can submit as an individual or as part of a team, and entries may consist of ideas for full playgrounds or stand-alone play components. 

The selection of winning designs will complete the first of a three-phase initiative tied to the Playground Contest. First, the winners from each division will be invited to an in-person creative planning session at the Miracle Design Studio, where they will work with professional playground designers to brainstorm the buildable outdoor play space inspired by their contest entries. For phase two, a worthy community will win the Rube Goldberg Playground, selected by a juried committee of industry professionals, and phase three will see the construction of this one-of-a-kind playground. 

All information, including the Rube Goldberg Playground Contest Form and Rulebook, can be found at

"The idea to create a Rube Goldberg playground, where kids become part of the machine itself, was where this whole thing started," says Jennifer George, Rube's granddaughter and creative director at the Rube Goldberg Institute. "And where better to start the design process than with kids themselves - and grown-ups who think like kids! My grandfather's work is synonymous with STEM and art education. With Miracle Recreation as our partner, combined with the great ideas we expect to see from contestants, we will bridge the gap between classroom learning and outdoor play, with a destination playground loved by kids, teachers and parents alike."

Craig Mellott, design innovation manager at PlayPower, Miracle Recreation’s parent company, added: “We are thrilled to partner with The Rube Goldberg Institute to challenge and inspire would-be designers – including K-12 students, college teams and professional inventors and engineers – to expand their minds and share their own creative visions for outdoor play.” 

To create the perfect playground filled with funny functionality, design submissions should balance creativity, inclusivity, and safety. Submissions can be as simple or as detailed as the entrants desire, and Junior Division entrants are encouraged to submit rough sketches, cool ideas or simple stories that illustrate their vision for the playground equipment of their dreams. 

Winning submissions will receive: a US$500 cash prize and trophy; social media coverage on the Rube Goldberg and Miracle Recreation sites; permanent acknowledgement on the physical structure once complete; a published story and/or ad in a trade publication; and other potential opportunities to be involved in the next build phases. Winners will also be invited to attend a collaborative design session with Miracle Recreation and Rube Goldberg teams.

The Rube Goldberg Institute, a “museum without walls” encouraging global interest in arts and sciences, and Miracle Recreation, based in Monett, Missouri, began their partnership in 2021 with the Rube Goldberg Miracle Machines: three oversized, double-sided playground panels that allow children to create constant motion using mechanisms such as levers, gears, pegs, balls, and spinners. The equipment is available to purchase for community and school playgrounds everywhere.

“Miracle Recreation is proud to build on our successful partnership with the Rube Goldberg Institute, working together to launch a contest that embodies the joy that unites our two organizations,” said Mike Sutton, vice president of global sales for Miracle Recreation. “We look forward to receiving entries that challenge our thinking and make us laugh, allowing us to eventually build a complete Rube Goldberg playground worthy of the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and inventor’s name.”

This partnership was brokered by Brand Central, Rube Goldberg's licensing agency and brand partner.