April 7, 2001
Purdue Rube Goldberg team shows national 'a-peel'
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Despite one restart and one human intervention, the Purdue student chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers won the 13th annual National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest today (Saturday, 4/7) with a machine that paid tribute to New York City.
"We all feel an indescribable sense of accomplishment," said Eric Gossman, member of the winning team and a senior mechanical engineering technology major from Elkhart, Ind.
The group's machine, named "The Big Apple," was one of five contraptions entered in the contest. The team's were challenged to build a machine that could select, clean and peel an apple using at least 20 steps and within a time limit. The winning machine finished the job in more than 40 steps to win the national championship trophy and $500.
Purdue's machine ran successfully on the first try but required a restart on its second and one human intervention on its third run-throughs. The machine completed the task without human intervention at the February local contest.
"We have run the machine successfully more than a dozen times since the local competition," Gossman said. "The machine ran perfectly last weekend at an SME chapter meeting and last night. Two of the steps in the machine didn't work today. It just happened at the wrong time."
The University of Toledo's chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' Olympic themed second-place machine, "The Apple Olympics," had one successful run after a restart. The machine's third run required four human interventions, giving the Purdue team the winning edge.
The contest honors the late cartoonist Rube Goldberg, who specialized in drawing whimsical, complicated machines to perform very simple tasks. The student-built machines were judged on completion of the task, creativity, the number of steps involved and how well they embraced the Rube Goldberg spirit.
"The Big Apple" machine used items such as a golf ball painted like a Harlem Globetrotters' basketball that bounced from a trampoline to a basketball hoop, a figure of King Kong climbing the Empire State Building, a pool ball rolling across the Brooklyn Bridge and a jet flying out of LaGuardia Airport. Music, including the Globetrotters theme, "New York, New York," "The Heart of Rock and Roll" and "Arthur's Theme," was timed to accompany the machine's progress.
In addition to Gossman, the winning team members were: Brandon Fruechte, a senior mechanical engineering major from Decatur, Ind.; Andy G. Jahn, a senior in mechanical engineering technology from St. Anthony, Ind.; Josh Hurst, a senior in mechanical engineering technology from Lafayette, Ind.; Mark Pund, a senior in mechanical engineering technology from Ferdinand, Ind.; Judson Tyler Brown, a junior in computer integrated manufacturing technology from Bloomington, Ind.; Patrick J. Webber, a senior in mechanical engineering technology from Floyds Knobs, Ind.; Michael Wehr, a senior in building construction management from Huntingburg, Ind.; and Beau G. Wendholt, a senior in mechanical engineering technology from Ferdinand, Ind.
The second-place trophy and $300 went to the University of Toledo. Third place and $100 went to University of Texas at Austin for a James Bond themed machine called "Goldberg, Rube Goldberg." "The Big Apple" was selected as the People's Choice Award winner by the more than 300 people attending the competition at West Lafayette High School's gymnasium.
Other entries were from first-time competitors University of Buffalo, with a "Death by Pokeman" machine, and Vanderbilt University, with a Snoopy-themed machined called "V-squared Peanut Gallery."
Also at the competition was a team of physics students from Plainfield High School in Plainfield, Ill. Theta Tau fraternity invited the students to make an exhibition run of their machine, which won first place in the Chicago regional Rube Goldberg competition. The high school team, last year's Illinois state champions, will defend their title at the Illinois state competition on May 2.
The Purdue team dedicated more than 700 man-hours working on its machine since November. Gossman said the most difficult part of creating the machine was dreaming up the steps.
The contest is sponsored by Purdue's Theta Tau fraternity with support from Purdue Music Organizations and financial support from Newark Electronics and Dell Computer Corp.
Source: Eric Gossman, Society of Manufacturing Engineer team member, (765) 464-3437
Writer: Bob Johnson, (765) 496-7704, firstname.lastname@example.org
Other source: Fernando Cordero, contest chairman, (765) 743-2623, email@example.com
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Senior mechanical engineering major Mark Pund of Ferdinand, Ind., works against the clock to reset Purdue University's winning entry in the 2001 National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest at West Lafayette High School. The New York themed contraption, called "The Big Apple," was built by the Purdue chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. Purdue's entry defeated machines from four other universities today (Saturday, 4/7) to claim the national trophy in the 13th annual event. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger)