Guinness crowns Purdue Rube Goldberg machine 'World's Largest'

April 19, 2012


The Purdue Society of Professional Engineers team poses with its world record-setting Rube Goldberg machine. The team spent more than 5,000 total hours building the 300-step contraption that flawlessly inflated and popped a balloon. (Photo provided by Andy Jessop)

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Guinness World Records designated a 300-step Rube Goldberg machine built by Purdue University students as the largest in the world.

The Purdue Society of Professional Engineers and the Hispanic Society of Professional Engineers invested more than 5,000 total hours to build the innovative behemoth that performed the assigned task of inflating and popping a balloon at the site of this year's Rube Goldberg Machine Contest intercollegiate national championship.

The machine has become an Internet sensation, scoring nearly 1 million YouTube views and coverage from a host of online media including MSNBC, Forbes, Popular Mechanics, Wired, Huffington Post, PC magazine, Yahoo, Big Ten Network, Discovery Canada and

Purdue's machine accomplished every task ever assigned in the competition's 25-year history, including peeling an apple, juicing an orange, toasting bread, making a hamburger, changing a light bulb, loading a CD, crushing a can and sharpening a pencil. Stephen Colbert, Guy Kawasaki and Penn Jillette have all commented on the machine.

In a nod to Purdue's Boilermaker mascot, the team powered portions of the machine with a homemade boiler system boasting an elaborate locomotive-like drive system that inflated the balloon. The team claimed the People's Choice Award and a prize for the most "Rube-ish" step, which used an accordion arm that sprung free to pop the balloon.

"We did some bold things with this machine that have never even been attempted," said team president Zach Umperovitch. "We don't set out to break records, but we always aim to push the envelope of what is possible."

The machine can be seen on YouTube at

To pack in so many steps, the team invented a novel platform consisting of two paddlewheels that reveal new sets of modules to chronologically accomplish the tasks. The final balloon pop is punctuated with a blast from an antique train whistle.

In 2011 Purdue set the previous world record with a 244-step machine that traced the history of the world and destroyed it several times over before watering a flower. Rube Goldberg machines pay homage to the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist who amused millions with his whimsical cartoons of elaborate, inefficient machines that accomplished everyday tasks. The contest was initially launched as a challenge between two Purdue fraternities. It has been hosted and run annually by Purdue engineering fraternity Theta Tau over the last 25 years.

Writer: Jim Schenke, 765-237-7296,

Source: Zach Umperovitch,

Related websites:
Purdue's Rube Goldberg site


Note to Journalists:
Broadcast-quality B-Roll, sound bites and package are available for download and use at For more information, contact Jim Schenke, Purdue News Service, at 765-237-7296,