Brett Doar's complex machines of pulleys and ramps and colorful parts have been featured in music videos and TV commercials, but on Tuesday, his newest stage was the DuPage Children's Museum.
The Naperville museum featured the man known as Hollywood's "King of Creative Contraptions" during an Innovation Open House that gave kids the chance to build a Rube Goldberg-style machine and visitors the chance to see it in action.
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Two classes of students from John W. Gates Elementary in Aurora began building with Doar in the morning, following his instructions with their own creative ideas to link areas of the "Make it Move" room into one connected, moving machine.
Doar, a creative technologist who has built contraptions for the band OK Go's music video "This Too Shall Pass," toy company Goldieblox and Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report," as well as Google and Red Bull, said his craft is all about imagination.
"We're going to build a machine," Doar told the group of about 50 students from second- and fifth-grade classes. "I'm not sure where it's going to end, but we're going to get there. That's why we need your brains to come up with something unique."
The kids were the first participants in the Innovation Open House, which continued when the museum opened its doors for a free event Tuesday evening.
"This ties into our year of innovation," museum spokeswoman Brianne Bromberek said. "We wanted to get people excited about innovation and to be able to see the contraptions."
Rube Goldberg-inspired machines, which follow the well-known cartoonist's example of using overly complicated efforts to accomplish simple tasks, were the star of the day. Machines built by DuPage Children's Museum, Kennedy Junior High in Naperville Unit District 203, Northern Illinois University's STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Outreach, and Expert Plumbing, Heating and Electric were on display Tuesday before they will be judged at the museum's annual gala in April.
The act of building an imaginative contraption brings theories of math and physics into literal play, Doar said. It also allows tech-savvy kids, who might work more often on computers than with building blocks, to figure out how motion works, said Marcia MacRae, the museum's public programs manager.
"We're finding out today that kids can design something on a computer that would never work in real life," she said.
Contraption construction in real life takes "a willingness to fail and patience," but Doar said it comes with a bonus of stress relief.
"If you're depressed," he said, "there is the act of making something that makes the world a little better."