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March 31, 2007

Ferris State University takes top honors at national Rube Goldberg competition

Rube National Winners
Ferris State

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It took a lot of concentration for Ferris State University's team members to make freshly squeezed orange juice, but their hard work paid off when they grabbed top honors Saturday (March 31) during the 19th annual national Rube Goldberg Machine Contest at Purdue University.

It is the first time the Ferris State team won the competition. Ferris State is in Big Rapids, Mich.

The event took place in the Purdue Armory when eight teams from around the nation brought their Rube Goldberg "contraptions" to compete in the competition.

"The Rube Goldberg competition is a celebration of imagination and possibilities," said Dennis Depew, dean of the College of Technology, who spoke during the opening ceremonies of the event. "I am pleased when I look out at the audience and see so many youngsters. I hope this event will encourage these young people to pursue careers in science, technology and engineering."

About 1,500 people attended the event that rewards creativity and inefficiency by having students come up with interesting and convoluted ways to complete an assigned task. This year's challenge was to take a whole orange, squeeze the juice from it and then pour the juice into a glass using 20 or more steps.

Ferris State used a "Toy Factory" theme to complete the task. The team used a variety of toys, including a train, a Slinky, cars, an "Operation" game, a jack-in-the-box, a Frisbee, dominoes, a hobby horse and other items. The team spent more than 3,000 hours building their machine.

"We've come to the competition for the past four years, and after last year's disappointment when our machine had a malfunction, we really wanted to come back and win this year," said Tom Sybrandy, senior at Ferris State and captain of the team. "We were worried because the competition is fierce, but when we did the first run without any problems, we just had a sigh of relief.

"We also broke the world record with that run, and that was great."

The team used 345 steps to complete the task, breaking the Purdue Society of Professional Engineers current record of using 125 steps. The Purdue team broke the record during the 2006 Rube national competition and was officially recognized by Guinness World Records for "Largest Rube Goldberg" in the fall of that same year.

Other Ferris State team members are Matt Tomaszewski, senior; Mike Dunakin, freshman; and James Travis III, senior. Another team member who was not in attendance Saturday because he was called to serve in Iraq on March 1 is Fred Reinecke, a junior in electrical engineering technology.

Society of Professional Engineers
Second Place Winners

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The Purdue Society of Professional Engineers came in second with their "00J: The Orange is Not Enough" theme. The machine included a secret agent who broke into a casino, drove his Lotus automobile and parachuted for a soft landing to help the orange reach its destination, where it was squeezed and then poured into a glass. The team used 155 steps to complete the task and spent about 3,000 hours building its machine.

"The competition was extremely tough this year, but we did what we set out to do in building the machine and had two good runs. It's been good to have to such a great turnout both from the other schools and the audience," said Drew Wischer, captain of the Purdue team and a senior in aviation technology from Cedarburg, Wis. "The Purdue team this year is almost entirely made up of new members. We've had an amazing time working on the machine, and everyone will be coming back strong next year to try to regain the national title.

"We don't really focus that much on the number of steps we have or worry about our machine having the most steps in the competition. We come up with complicated and inventive ways to put the machine together, but we wait to pick our theme until we know what the task will be."

The Texas A&M team from College Station, Texas, placed third and had a theme of "Mad Science." Its machine used 59 steps and the team spent about 2,200 hours building the machine.

"This was a very tough competition. We are very happy to get third place. Purdue and Ferris State had amazing machines," said Andrew Arnold, team captain for Texas A&M and a senior in electronics, engineering and technology. "This is only our second year competing in the Rube Goldberg competition. We plan to keep on going and competing, and get better and better.

"The experience of participating in the Rube Goldberg competition is excellent. It is great in the fact that all of these engineering disciplines work together on the same team. Also, the competition provides a broad range of experiences, including project management. You don't really get that in a school setting."

Purdue teams won the national competition for the past four years. The Purdue Society of Professional Engineers won the past two years, the Purdue Society of Manufacturing Engineers won in 2004, and the Purdue Theta Tau fraternity and Phi Sigma Ro sorority won in 2003.

The Phi Chapter of the Theta Tau fraternity at Purdue organizes the contest.

"Every year, the teams raise the level of the machines and the level of the competition," said Dan Kleinbaum, Theta Tau national contest chairman and a senior in the School of Mechanical Engineering from Ann Arbor, Mich. "We get more and more people coming to the contest every year, too. We had about 1,500 at the national, and that is a lot more than usual.

"Next year, we will have even more because the national high school Rube Goldberg competition will be held at Purdue."

Other teams competing in this year's national competition were: Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.; University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati; University of Texas-Austin, Austin, Texas; Washington State Community College, Marietta, Ohio; and Penn State, Centre County, Pa.

The contest's namesake is the late cartoonist Rube Goldberg, who specialized in drawing whimsical machines with complex mechanisms to perform simple tasks.

Winning machines must complete two successful runs, and points are deducted if students have to assist the machine once it has started. Judges award points based on the creative use of materials, team chemistry, flow of machine and the theme of a machine.

Sponsors for this year's event include Omega Engineering Inc. of Stamford, Conn.; Minute Maid Co.; BAE Systems; Bosch Group Inc.; Daimler-Chrysler Corp.; General Electric Co.; Kimberly-Clark Corp.; Lockheed Martin Corp.; and Motorola Inc. Purdue's College of Engineering and College of Technology also support the event.

In previous contests, students' machines have been required to select, clean and peel an apple; toast a piece of bread; put a stamp on an envelope; and drop a penny into a piggy bank. Winners have appeared on television shows nationally, including CBS' "This Morning," ABC's "Good Morning America," NBC's "Today," "Newton's Apple," "Ripley's Believe it or Not," the Fox News Network and CNN. Last year's winner appeared on "Jimmy Kimmel Live."

Writer: Cynthia Sequin, (765) 494-4192,

Source: Dan Kleinbaum, (734) 417-7254,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Note to Journalists: Journalists interested in interviews can contact Dan Kleinbaum, contest chairman, (734) 417-7254,

Ferris State students (from left) James Travis III and Matt Tomaszewski celebrate a successful run of their machine at the national Rube Goldberg Machine Contest on the Purdue University campus March 31. Their team built a machine that used 345 steps to squeeze juice from an orange into a pitcher and then pour the juice into a glass. It was the team's first win at the national competition. (Purdue News Service/David Umberger)

A publication-quality photo is available at

Purdue students (from left) Zach Umperovitch, a freshman aeronautical engineering major from Lafayette, Ind.; Kyle Keppner, a freshman civil engineering major from Manhattan, Ill.; and Drew Wischer, a senior aviation flight technology major from Cedarburg, Wis., celebrate a successful run of their machine at the national Rube Goldberg Machine Contest held March 31 on the Purdue University campus. Their team, the Society of Professional Engineers, placed second in the national contest with a machine that used 155 steps to squeeze juice from an orange into a pitcher and then pour the juice into a glass. (Purdue News Service/David Umberger)

A publication-quality photo is available at


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