March 28, 2009

First-time entrant captures Rube Goldberg national title

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -
2009 Rube Goldberg
national winners

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A team from St. Olaf College, a private liberal arts school in Northfield, Minn., won the 22nd annual national Rube Goldberg Machine Contest at Purdue University on Saturday (March 28).

St. Olaf, with an enrollment of 3,000 students and no engineering program, was competing for the first time in the national contest. The team of science-minded students designed a machine around a "Mad Scientists" theme. The machine featured mousetraps, magnets, pool balls, lasers and photo sensors. It took 239 steps to turn off an incandescent light and turn on dozens of LED lights spelling out "St. Olaf."

The contest is sponsored by Phi Chapter of Theta Tau engineering fraternity and rewards machines that most effectively combine creativity with inefficiency and complexity.

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

This year's task was to replace an incandescent light bulb with a more energy-efficient, light-emitting design. The machine must take at least 20 steps, and points are deducted if a team must intervene to help the machine complete its task. Teams are given three chances to complete two successful runs.

St. Olaf team captain Bern Youngblood, a junior majoring in physics and Russian from La Grande, Ore., said the team was thrilled that their first time was a charm.

"We are really excited to have won this," he said. "The team put a lot of work into the machine, and we all learned a lot from the experience."

St. Olaf team member Tom Hildreth, a junior in physics and math from Wheaton Ill., said the team spent about 3,000 hours on the machine, beginning in September. He said the team decided to compete in Rube thanks to an engineering design class taught by Jason Engbrecht, an assistant professor of physics, who included a Rube Goldberg project in the class.

James Kryger of Illinois
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Mike Mierzwa, Theta Tau's national contest chairman and a Purdue senior in nuclear engineering from Morris Plains, N.J., said this year's competition was extremely close. St. Olaf edged out the No. 2 team from the University of Illinois. The Illinois team had won the Purdue regional competition in February with its "Scene of the Crime" machine based on the board game Clue.

"It was a fantastic competition," Mierzwa said. "I was guessing which team won right up to the announcement."

Ferris State University of Big Rapids, Mich., a former national winner, took third place with a machine called "House of Rube" that was based on Goldberg cartoons. St. Olaf also won the People's Choice Award, voted on by those attending the contest.

Kyle Heber of Ferris State
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Also competing Saturday was the contest's first one-man team. Tyler Luce, a sophomore in mechanical engineering at the University of Texas, built a machine based on a Jurassic Park theme. Other teams competing Saturday were from Pennsylvania State University (State College), and Michigan Technological University (Houghton).

Thorp (Wis.) High School won the National High School Rube Goldberg Machine Contest.

Next year's Rube Goldberg contest will require machines to dispense an appropriate amount of hand sanitizer into someone's hand.

Sponsors for this year's event were BAE Systems, Bosch Group, Bose, BP, Lockheed Martin,  Lutron Electronics, Omega Engineering, Priio and Rockwell Collins, Purdue's School of Mechanical Engineering and College of Technology.

Writer: Judith Barra Austin, 765-494-2432, jbaustin@purdue.edu

Sources: Mike Mierzwa, 201-563-5071,  mmierzwa@purdue.edu

Bern Youngblood, 541-215-0258

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

 

PHOTO CAPTION:
Dan Endean of St. Olaf pumps his fist in celebration after his team's machine successfully completed a run during the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest at Purdue University on Saturday, March 28, 2009. Endean and his team from St. Olaf took first place in the competition. (Purdue Marketing and Media photo/Andrew Hancock)

A publication-quality photo is available at

http://news.uns.purdue.edu/images/+2009/rube-goldberg-stolaf.jpg

 

PHOTO CAPTION:

Members of the St. Olaf championship team celebrate their Rube Goldberg machine contest national championship win at Purdue University on Saturday, March 28, 2009. (Purdue Marketing and Media photo/Andrew Hancock)

A publication-quality photo is available at

http://news.uns.purdue.edu/images/+2009/rube-goldberg-champs.jpg

 

      PHOTO CAPTION:

James Kryger of Illinois keeps an eye on the progress of his teams Rube Goldberg Machine during competition at Purdue University on Saturday, March 28, 2009. The University of Illinois team won second place. (Purdue Marketing and Media photo/Andrew Hancock)

 

A publication-quality photo is available at

http://news.uns.purdue.edu/images/+2009/rube-goldberg-illini.jpg

 

PHOTO CAPTION:

Kyle Heber of Ferris State prepares his team's entry for competition in the Rube Goldberg machine contest at Purdue University on Saturday, March 28, 2009. Ferris State won third place in the competition. (Purdue Marketing and Media photo/Andrew Hancock)

 

A publication-quality photo is available at

http://news.uns.purdue.edu/images/+2009/rube-goldberg-ferris.jpg

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