Monday, March 06, 2006

Rube Goldberg Machine Contest

Flame from lamp (A) catches on curtain (B) and fire department sends stream of water (C) through window. Dwarf (D) thinks it is raining and reaches for umbrella (E), pulling string (F) and lifting end of platform (G). Iron ball (H) falls and pulls string (I), causing hammer (J) to hit plate of glass (K). Crashof glass wakes up pup (L) and mother dog (M) rocks him to sleep in cradle (N), causing attached wooden hand (O) to move up and down along your back.

Above, an example of a Rube Goldberg cartoon. These are the inspiration for an engineering student competion. This year, it took six months and 125 steps for a team of Purdue University students to win the 22nd annual Purdue Rube Goldberg Machine Contest. But this event is only a regional run up to the big national contest, which will also be held at Purdue but later this year.

The Rube Goldberg Machine Contest is named after cartoonist Reuben Goldberg, the spirit of whose work inspires the contest's weird machines and crazy mechanism. For 55 years Goldberg's award-winning cartoons satirized machines and gadgets which he saw as excessive. His cartoons combined simple machines and common household items to create complex, wacky, and diabolically logical machines that accomplished mundane and trivial tasks.

At this year's regional contest at Purdue, the winning machine was built by the local Society of Professional Engineers and incorporated a bouncing water balloon, a fireman action figure fleeing a fire and weights attached to a spinning bicycle wheel

The job it was designed to do was to shred five pieces of paper but to do it in the most convoluted and complex manner possible. The winners will go on to a national contest in April.

The five pages destroyed was a short "History of Technology" paper and was ultimately destroyed by a fire-breathing dragon.

National Competiton Finals coming up

The 2006 National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest is coming up. It will be at held 10:30 a.m. to approximately 1:00 p.m. April 1 in the Purdue University Armory.

The events are free and open to the public.

All machines will be required to individually cut or shred five sheets of 20 pound, 8 1/2-x-11-inch paper in a minimum of 20 steps.


jimf said...

High Schools in the Chicago area hold a Rube Goldberg contest every year and the winning machine is displayed and operated at Argonne National Laboratory... The last couple of years' winners have been pretty amazing. You probably can find links on the Argonne National Laboratory website.

tempusmaster said...

Contests like this are featured on a popular Japanese prime time television program, and are always popular. The most recent contest involved preparing dinner. The winning team designed a Rube Goldberg machine that included a guinea pig rolling in a ball, a toy car, burning flash paper, a bow and arrow, bowling balls and pins, and a bunch of other stuff. The meal it prepared included a spring roll, steamed meat bun, and a bowl of ramen complete with a raw egg. It took a little over five minutes for the whole thing -