Add this to the list of kid-friendly Flash games out there. My daughter Tasha brought it to my attention –she thinks it’s pretty cool- and I’ve spent more than a few minutes playing around with it myself. This bit of software has helped to heal the wound I suffered when Tasha was finally old enough (ie., statistically unlikely to swallow and choke on a ball bearing) for me to justify buying Mousetrap to play with her; only to realize that either manufacturing standards have gone WAY down in the past thirty years, or my memory of the game was seriously messed up.
Mousing over a component of the machine gives kids a wrench that lets them make adjustments (tilt a mirror or alter the angle of a ramp, for example) and they can then drop the gumball to see how far it goes and how their modifications affect the results. The path the ball travels varies depending on how the inputs are changed. All the favorite mechanisms (and more) are there: a bowling ball, dominoes, water, funnels, a skateboard, a fishing rod, ramps, rubber duck, and -of course- a mousetrap. There are tips and clues available for those times when the gumball stalls.
As an added bonus, the PBS Kids ZOOM site that hosts the Goldburger To Go game, includes not only a blurb about Rube Goldberg and his designs, but a list of more than thirty contraptions kids and their parents can build together. I think we might give the cotton ball catapult a try- apparently someone has managed to launch a cotton ball 28 feet. That sounds like a challenge.