Jan 16, 2018 • By

Creating Rube Goldberg-inspired machines from cereal boxes

Our new specially-marked, Rube Goldberg-inspired machine cereal boxes are designed to literally get your wheels turning.  

As part of General Mills’ partnership with the 30th anniversary of the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, new boxes of Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cocoa Puffs, Cookie Crisp, Lucky Charms and Reese’s Puffs include easy-to-follow instructions to transform the packaging into Rube Goldberg-inspired simple machines.

They bring S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) concepts to life using everyday household items like straws, paper clips, pencils and tape.


And who was Rube Goldberg?

A Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, best known for his zany invention cartoons, he graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a degree in engineering.

The simple machines – an inclined plane, lever, wheel and axle, pulley, wedge and a screw – vary in difficulty to provide cereal box machine building opportunities for children of various ages.


Our Big G Cereals team worked with creative designers at Ultra Creative in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to bring the physics-focused cereal box concept to life.  

Tony Johnson, associate creative director at Ultra, says that while the agency has designed countless cereal packages over the years, the machine idea was an exciting new challenge for his team. 


“As creatives, our first thought was that these intricate Rube Goldberg machines are very engineering focused and that’s not how our brains work. But then we kept thinking about it and realized that it’s the creativity part that we’d really be able to gear into,” Johnson says. “Our job is to be creative problem solvers – we’re designers, we’re writers – but it’s always about solving a problem with creative thinking. Which I think is part of what S.T.E.M. is about, too.” 

Johnson talks about the process of taking the cereal box machines from concept to reality, in this video.

So, you’ve made a simple, but totally cool, cereal box machine … now what are you supposed to do with it?  

Pour cereal! (The same task at the heart of the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest this year.)

“The key to the whole thing is that you’re using the machine as a device to get your cereal into a bowl,” says Johnson.  

So, I also had to ask him: Should people make the cereal machines right after they buy their specially-marked box or should they wait until they’re done eating all the cereal to start the interactive learning activity? 

“If you’re planning to eat the cereal from the box before cutting the cardboard apart, just make sure you leave at least a bowl’s worth in the bag so you’ve got cereal to play with once your machine is complete,” Johnson says.

He stresses that the machine building process is all about trial, error and creative problem solving – which he learned all too well while building countless machines during the four-month design process.

But don’t worry if you get stuck on a step, because we’ve got how-to video tutorials for all six machines.

“We’ve created helpful resources because we want the creation process to be fun,” says Hope Zeckmeister, senior marketing communications planner at General Mills. “Something that the Rube Goldberg team reminded us of often was: You’re only learning if you’re having fun along the way.” 

Zeckmeister talks about her personal connection to Rube Goldberg machines as a child and as an adult through this partnership, in this audio clip. 

“Creating family fun at the breakfast table has always been important to Big G, and this partnership stems from that idea. Plus, we’re upcycling our boxes at the same time,” says Zeckmeister. “It’s more important than ever to get kids engaged and excited about S.T.E.M. We want to continue to feed children’s desire to learn, which is why Big G is serving up $20,000 scholarships to 20 winners of our cereal box machine sweepstakes. Two easy steps and you’re entered to win!” 

Because there’s nothing better than fulfilling an appetite for learning, the scholarship can be used for the winner’s own college education or given to a person of their choosing.

Tony says, “I would love seeing families taking all six of these and creating things we could have never dreamed of. Whether that’s creating one huge machine while utilizing the original six, or by modifying them, making them different, making them better. I can’t wait to see what people are going to build with these.”

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NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Open only to legal residents of the 50 United States & DC, 18 years of age and older. Ends at 11:59 p.m. CT on August 1, 2018. Click for Official Rules, which govern, including odds, free method of entry and prizes descriptions. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook or Instagram. Entrants understand that they are providing information to Sponsor and not to Facebook or Instagram. 

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