Playful Engineers Online Learning

Chain Reactions @Home from Household Materials, Tools, & Toys

Online learning now for your school, library, organization, or home!

Available as an entertaining STEAM presentation, a DIY, hands-on workshop, and an ongoing series or residency.

Intro by Teaching Artist Jay Mankita

Mix and Match!

Contact Jay to arrange a virtual assembly, family night, classroom workshop, series, or residency. Engaging, online programs to fit your school, library, organization, or group of any size.

You can also book Jay’s programs through the non-profit CILC, the Center For Interactive Learning and Collaboration.

Families can register children for Jay’s classes through the secure learning platform, Outschool.

“Your program was so much fun, and I had a great time seeing all of your creations- they are truly inspiring!” – Katrina Ireland, Northborough Public Library

“I want to thank you again for all of your help and patience. One of the last meetings we had was an all staff reflection on content area work. We, the science teachers, used the video from one of our students (his dog rang a bell that triggered a marble that travelled down to release a dog treat) as the highlight of our year and the end of our presentation. We marveled as this shy young man found his voice through engineering, design, and construction. A big assist to you for making that happen.” – Jack Czajkowski, Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School

Live Online Presentations

A Rube Goldberg-inspired romp into the world of building complicated chain reactions to accomplish simple tasks, from our own ordinary stuff.

Artist/engineer Jay Mankita demonstrates best engineering practices for building Rube Goldberg Machines – inspiring students to build @home, from their own stuff.

Jay assembles and demonstrates his favorite machine parts live, and adds video examples of some of his more complex builds.

(this presentation does not include hands-on building time for students – that’s encouraged as a pre/post-session activities. In-session building time however, is a big part of Jay’s workshops and residencies – see next section for details.)

Students interact with Jay through live Q&A throughout the session.

Jay works through Zoom, Google, Webex, or the platform of your choice. Session length is generally just under an hour, but flexible, and includes a virtual tour of Jay’s maker space, a presentation of student progress when applicable, pre-recorded video, and of course, Jay’s live demonstrations.

Content can easily be bundled into your curriculum, but…

This work is ALL about play – that’s where learning happens!

And this type of play reinforces: fundamentals of engineering practice, core disciplines of force and motion, and cross-cutting concepts of scale, and cause and effect.

And of course: enhanced confidence, willingness to persevere, appreciation of the value of failure, and the joy of scientific discovery through hands-on exploration!


Pre/Post session, students and families can freely access the tutorials and demonstration videos provided.

They gather their own toys and household materials for constructing their own chain reactions, at their own pace, and at their own level (of age, skill, patience, access to space/materials, etc…).

Sharing of progress videos is encouraged; classroom teachers can have students upload for inclusion in the group presentation.

Follow-up
Arrange for one of Jay’s hands-on workshops, or series! See details in the next section…

Workshops & Residencies

These workshops are interactive; each child chooses how hands-on they want it to be. Lots of opportunity for building and sharing throughout the session (although some children may benefit more from absorbing, and then building later on).

Force, Friction, Momentum, Simple Machines, Cause & Effect, and Scale, are some of the relevant engineering concepts we explore by building and playing with various chain reaction techniques.

A relatively small set of common-sense physics principles applies to many materials and methods – so there’ll be plenty of repetition (of techniques and concepts) from class to class, though no two classes will ever be the same.

Each student can follow their most appropriate path, as I shape each class to best fit their needs and interests.

Some of my favorite techniques from toys & household materials:

  • Booktop Ball Runs made from hardcover books
  • Track Feeders from hot-wheels tracks, hand-made cardboard tracks, rubber bands, and pencils
  • Rolling Cones from drinking cups, tinker toys, or fruits and vegetables
  • Carousels from cans, pencils, pens, rubber bands, and popsicle sticks
  • Catapults from plastic spoons
  • Tetherballs from broomsticks, mop handles, or standing lamps
  • Ball Bounces from ping-pong balls
  • Tube-Tape Wobbles”from the inside of a scotch-tape roll, and half a cardboard tube
  • Domino Rallies from dominoes of course, or books, or playing cards, or CDs
  • Mini Zip-Lines from string, key-rings, and action figures, and many others.

I teach my methods through live demonstrations, and video examples, and I teach my methodology (keep simple parts simple, begin with the end in mind, etc…) through dialogue and repeated examples.

DIY means “do it yourself”, not “do it by yourself”, and my goal here is to foster opportunities to think aloud with others, and to help elicit a team feeling, even though each learner is building their own contraption.

Students come to the class with different sets of gifts and challenges, skills and experience, and differing abilities. So there are no specific milestones that any one learner has to meet in order for anyone, or everyone else, to progress.

I strive to match my own pace with the needs of the group, but at the same time, there is definitely lots of room for quirky and atypical learners in my class; I am one myself!

Contact us for a quick reply!

Or just call 413-627-3145.