Purdue team adds human touch to national Rube Goldberg Machine contest title

April 13, 2014  

2014 Purdue Rube Goldberg Machine

Purdue Society of Professional Engineers student Rube Goldberg team regained the national championship in 2014 with a zipper zipping machine. The Purdue machine was the first in over three decades of national competition to include a human being as a part of the working machine. (File photo provided by Vince Walter)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The student team from the Purdue Society of Professional Engineers is once again national champions after winning the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest Saturday (April 12) in Columbus, Ohio.

The teams were required to build an overly elaborate machine that whimsically performed an uncomplicated everyday task - this year to zip a zipper. The Purdue machine ran through its 100 steps flawlessly, but wowed the crowd with a stunt that had never been attempted since Purdue student engineers launched the competition in 1983 - including a human in the machine. The machine zipped a zipper worn by a team member squeezed into the six-foot cube with machinery that performed a variety of other getting-ready-for-the-day tasks such as making toast and tea and applying a quick, "I’m-running-late" "French” bath. You can see the machine here http://youtu.be/XA477DjENZ8

PSPE-built Rube machines have won no less than four national titles and set no fewer than three Guinness World Records for building fabulously complicated machines that ran unassisted through upwards of 300 steps in less than 90 seconds.

This year the team scaled back to create a more whimsical machine that included some very obvious nods to cartoonist Goldberg’s designs, such as falling hammers and a bowling ball. With that focus, the team also won the Legacy Award for "Rube-iest" machine. More than 3,500 total hours went in to building the machine. One modern but bizarre sequence included a “Sharknado”-like airborne attack on soldiers and tanks that was identified as a live-action “historical” depiction of the "The Great Shark War of 1852."

"If nothing else, the Rube Goldberg contest proves that engineers can be creative and have fun," said Purdue team president Adam Bahrainwala of Palatine, Ill. "It may not be our reputation, but they are valuable life and career traits."

Other team members included David Cannon of Valparaiso, Ind., Andrew Rawlins of Greenwood, Ind., Jordan Vallejo of Los Angeles, Ben Hilker of Edwardsville, Ill., Rebecca Russell of Elkhorn, Wisc.

Writer: Jim Schenke, 765-237-7296, jschenke@purdue.edu

Source: Adam Bahrainwala, abahrain@purdue.edu

Related Web sites:

Purdue SPE Rube Goldberg team: http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~pe/about.html

Note to Journalists: Team members and their machine are available in person or electronically (phone, Skype, Vyvx, satellite, etc). For more information, contact Jim Schenke, Purdue News Service, at 765-237-7296 or jschenke@purdue.edu.

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