February 12, 2000
Society of Women Engineers claims Goldberg title
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. The Purdue student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers won the 18th annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest today (Saturday, 2/12) by preserving the most significant inventions of the 20th century in a Rubbermaid Spaghetti Keeper.
"The contest rules said the time capsule had to be transparent so the judges could see what we chose to put inside," explained team spokeswoman Leigh Ann Heider, a senior from Anderson, Ind. "The spaghetti keeper was just the right size."
The group's machine, named "Traveling Through Time," was the only one of the four contraptions entered in the contest to complete this year's task without human intervention. Contestants were asked to load a minimum of seven items representing 20th century inventions into a time capsule and seal it, using at least 20 steps and within a time limit. The winning machine placed 10 items into the capsule in 37 steps to win the first-place trophy and a full-sized refrigerator from the contest's corporate sponsor, General Electric.
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 SWE machine used items such as a Pringles Potato Chip can, an electric train, several mousetraps and a number of pingpong balls filled with lead shot to move the significant inventions along a conveyor belt made of toilet paper. Once the items dropped into the time capsule, another series of steps sealed the lid. These steps included a toy car shot from a Hot Wheels launcher and a hand-built guillotine.
In addition to Heider, the SWE team members, all engineering majors, are: her husband, Todd, a junior from Anderson, Ind.; John Dankanich, a senior from Hammond, Ind.; Patrick Dempsey, a junior from Oshkosh, Wis.; Lisa DeNicola, a freshman from West Lafayette; Adam Irvine, a junior from Dyer, Ind.; Debra L. Klein, a junior from Wood Dale, Ill.; Santosh Kuruvilla, a junior from Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Kimberly Overhage, a freshman from Crown Point, Ind.; and Wendy Wyatt, a sophomore from Kokomo, Ind.
The second-place trophy and a GE microwave oven went to the Purdue Society of Professional Engineers for a machine called "The Mad Scientists' Kitchen." Third place went to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for their "Carnival of the Century" machine. which also was selected the People's Choice Award winner by the nearly 500 people in attendance at the Elliott Hall of Music. ASME took home two GE dormitory-sized refrigerators for their efforts. The fourth-place machine was built by the Purdue student chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers.
The SWE team spent about $200 for materials and then dedicated 20 hours per week working on the machine since the semester started in January. Heider said the most difficult step involved an electric train, which was still causing problems as late as last night.
"There was a temperature control on the power pack that was automatically shutting off when it got too hot," Heider explained. "We didn't know about that until we took it apart."
The Society of Women Engineers will compete in the National Rube Goldberg Contest on April 8 at Purdue.
Here's how the winning machine prepared its time capsule:
A ball is dropped into a Pringles can, which tilts a lever that flips a hinge, triggering another ball to fall through a cylinder and hit a switch that turns on an electric train. The train pulls a pin that starts the conveyor belt made of toilet paper, which then deposits 10 items, including a model of the space shuttle, an integrated circuit, and a Velcro fastener in the time capsule.
From there the machine uses a series of weights and counterweights to turn on a fan, which inflates a sail that triggers a mousetrap. The mousetrap snaps, releasing a toy glider that taps a miniature soccer ball. The soccer ball rolls down a ramp, setting a golf ball into motion that then activates a toy motorcycle. The motorcycle knocks out a support beam that triggers another series of weighted pingpong balls and mousetraps, which release a pin activating a small elevator.
The elevator descends and pushes a lever that triggers a toy dump truck to empty another ball onto the Hot Wheels launcher. The Hot Wheels car hits another ball, which rolls down a ramp and activates a remote-controlled car. The car takes off at great speed, pulling the string that triggers the guillotine, which cuts another string that releases a weight. This weight pulls a pin that allows a toy jeep to roll down a ramp, pulling out another support beam and causes a final weight to fall, pulling the time capsule lid shut.
Sources: Leigh Ann Heider, (765) 463-7933, LAHeider@hotmail.com
Michael Mills, assistant contest chairman (765) 743-2623
Writer: Sharon A. Bowker, (765) 494-9723, firstname.lastname@example.org
Related Web site:
Adam Schrader of Newburgh, a Purdue junior, looks for help at the 18th Annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest. Schrader was a member of the team representing the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, which won the People's Choice Award. The Saturday (2/12) contest challenged Purdue teams to fill and seal a time capsule with significant inventions of the 20th century. The Society of Women Engineers won the contest and will compete for the national title April 8 at Elliott Hall of Music. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger)