April 6, 2002
Texas tribute to 9-11 captures national Rube Goldberg contest
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. The University of Texas at Austin team's tribute to the heroes of Sept. 11 captured the 14th annual Theta Tau Fraternity's national Rube Goldberg Machine Contest today (Saturday, 4/6) in a four-team competition to raise and wave the American flag.
The Texas Theta Tau engineering fraternity, Psi Beta chapter team, clad in fire-engine red Austin Fire Department T-shirts, broke into an acappella version of "The Eyes of Texas are Upon You" as it was announced that they narrowly edged out Purdue University's "Mission to Mars" team. The winning team received $500 and the top trophy for their flag-raising engineering efforts.
A crowd of approximately 600 people at the Cumberland Place Exhibition Center in West Lafayette looked on as teams tried to fulfill the contest's objective: to raise, secure and wave an American flag using at least 20 steps and within a time limit.
Purdue's Society of Professional Engineers' team came in second, receiving $300, and also won the People's Choice Award trophy and a $50 prize. The Purdue student chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers won the national contest last year with a machine that peeled an apple while paying tribute to New York City.
The University of Toledo, Theta Tau, Chi Beta chapter claimed third place and a $150 prize with a gothic homage to the works Edgar Allan Poe. Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., also competed in this year's contest with an "I Love New York" theme.
"It was ironic that the contest task was to raise the national flag and then 9-11 happened and the war on terrorism began," said Kevin Smith, of Houston, the Texas team captain. "Our goal at first was to be competitive in the contest. Then it became a way to pay tribute to fire and rescue and military personnel."
In addition to Smith, members of the University of Texas at Austin Theta Tau team were: Brody Knudston, Timon Chiang, Chris Nance and Salvador Santolucito III.
The team began working last semester to perfect their winning machine with a desire to improve their showing at the closely contested regional competition in Austin. In 2000, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers at the University of Texas at Austin won the national Rube Goldberg contest.
"This victory got the monkey off our back," four-year Rube Goldberg veteran Knudston said.
The Texas team's 63-step machine started with a fire alarm that released a dog, which triggered a fireman sliding down a pole to set the mechanics in motion. The machine employed five major energy transfers that launched mechanisms, released a catapult, unlatched levers, pulled pins, tripped photo transistors, cut strings and lifted weights until a pulley released a pendulum that ultimately picked up an American flag. Incorporated in the machine were patriotic and fire-rescue related representations including a fire hydrant, a fire escape, a Statue of Liberty lamp and a replica of the Alamo.
Shawn S. Jordan, a graduate student majoring in computer engineering from Fort Wayne, Ind., said he and his Purdue Society of Professional Engineers' teammates were excited about the close finish and the People's Choice honor.
"This will give us something higher to strive for next year," Jordan said.
In addition to the university teams battling for the top spot, two high school teams showed off their Rube Goldberg machines. Plainfield High School, Plainfield, Ill., and Greenfield Central High School, Greenfield, Ind., appeared as exhibition teams.
The Rube Goldberg Machine Contest honors the late cartoonist Rube Goldberg, who specialized in drawing whimsical, complicated machines to perform very simple tasks. The student-built machines are judged on completion of the task, creativity, the number of steps involved and how well they embrace the Rube Goldberg spirit. Points are deducted if students have to assist the machine once it has started. Teams also are judged and awarded points based on the creative use of their materials and related themes.
In previous contests, students' machines have been required to select, clean and peel an apple; make a cup of coffee; toast a piece of bread; put a stamp on an envelope; and drop a penny into a piggy bank. Winners have appeared on "Late Night With David Letterman, CBS' "This Morning," ABC's "Good Morning America," NBC's "Today," "Newton's Apple" and CNN.
The Theta Tau Educational Foundation provided financial support for the contest.
Writer: Grant Flora, (765) 494-2073, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Chris Piano, contest chairman, email@example.com
A publication-quality photograph is available at ftp://ftp.purdue.edu/pub/uns/rubenat.texas.jpeg
Corrine Catapano, member of the Purdue Chapter of the Society of Professional Engineers, resets the People's Choice Award winning machine today (Saturday, 4/6) at the national finals of the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest in West Lafayette. The contest task was to raise and wave the national flag in at least 20 steps. (Purdue News Service photo by Nick Judy)
A publication-quality photograph is available at ftp://ftp.purdue.edu/pub/uns/rubenat.purdue.jpeg