sealPurdue News

May 5, 2003

Purdue students to appear on Late Show with David Letterman

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The winners of the national Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, composed of a team of Purdue University students from the Theta Tau fraternity and Phi Sigma Rho sorority, will appear Wednesday (5/7) on the Late Show with David Letterman.

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The 15th annual contest honored the late cartoonist Rube Goldberg, who specialized in drawing whimsical, complicated machines to perform simple tasks. It took place Saturday, April 12 at the Cumberland Place Exhibition Center adjacent to the Purdue campus in West Lafayette, Ind. This year's contest task was to select, crush and pitch a 12-ounce aluminum can into a recycling bin in at least 20 steps.

Students who will be on the show include:

Jim Nolan, a mechanical engineering major from New Albany, Ind.; Greg Franzer, a chemical engineering major from Coldwater, Ohio; Ashley Mordasky, a civil and environmental engineering major from South Windsor, Conn.; Danny Rodriguez, an industrial engineering major from Jacksonville, Fla.; Jen Watson, an aeronautical engineering major from Washington, Ill. and Stephanie King, a civil engineering major from Brownsburg, Ind.

The Theta Tau and Phi Sigma Rho team received $250 for first place and $50 for winning the People's Choice Award. Their sports-themed machine, which used no electrical devices, relied on different balls to trigger the 34 steps to crush a can and place it in a recycling bin.

The University of Toledo's American Society of Mechanical Engineers team was awarded $150 for second place, and University of Texas at Austin's Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers team received $50 for third place. Other teams competing were Theta Tau Chapter Gamma Beta from George Washington University and Theta Tau from University of Cincinnati.

The student-built machines are judged on completion of the task, creativity, the number of steps involved and how well they embrace the Rube Goldberg spirit. Points are deducted if students assist the machine once it has started. Teams also are judged and awarded points based on the creative use of materials and related themes.

In previous contests, students' machines have been required to raise, secure and wave an American flag; select, clean and peel an apple; make a cup of coffee; toast a piece of bread; put a stamp on an envelope; and drop a penny into a piggy bank.

The National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest was sponsored by the Phi chapter of Theta Tau fraternity and the Purdue Engineering Student Council. Rube Goldberg and the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest are the trademark and copyright of Rube Goldberg Inc.

Writer: Marydell Forbes, (765) 496-7704,

Source: Willie Karashin, National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest chairman, (765) 743-2461, ext. 865,

Additional sources: Jen Watson, (765) 743-7490,; Greg Franzer, (765) 743-2461,; Stephanie King, (765) 743-8895,, Danny Rodriguez, (765) 743-2461,, Jim Nolan, (765) 743-2461,,
Ashley Mordasky, (765) 648-1988,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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