sealPurdue Lifestyles and Education Briefs

February 2000

Goldberg contestants to immortalize 20th century

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Video and photographs of past contests are available. Journalists will not be allowed on the stage with the machines during the competition, but they are welcome on stage before and after the contest. Purdue will provide video and photo pool coverage and direct audio and video feeds. An ISDN line is available for radio interviews. Video b-roll, photos and a news release will be available the afternoon of the event. Satellite assistance is available. If you have questions, contact Jesica Webb at the Purdue News Service, (765) 494-2079,

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University students will immortalize the 20th century's most significant inventions Feb. 12 during the 18th annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest.

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The competition honors the late cartoonist Rube Goldberg, who specialized in drawing whimsical machines with complex mechanisms to perform simple tasks. Each year, Purdue students are challenged to build actual working machines that Goldberg himself might have dreamed up.

The task for this year is to place in a time capsule a minimum of seven items representing the best inventions, ideas and discoveries of the past 100 years. Previous contests have asked students to make a cup of coffee, put a stamp on an envelope and drop a penny into a piggy bank – all in 20 or more steps. The entire process must take nine minutes or less.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held at 11 a.m. in Purdue's Elliott Hall of Music. The winner of the competition will represent the university at the National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, to be held at the same location April 8.

Students will place their selected inventions into the time capsules by combining the principles of physics and engineering with common objects, such as rubber bands, marbles, mouse traps and bicycle gears, plus lots of ingenuity. Points are deducted if students have to assist the machine once it has started. Teams also will be judged and awarded points based on the creative use of materials and use of related themes.

The local contest is organized by members of the Purdue chapter of Theta Tau, with support from industrial sponsor General Electric Co. It was first held at Purdue in 1949 and ran until 1955. The fraternity revived it in 1983 to celebrate National Engineers' Week, and the national contest has been held at the university since 1988.

Last year's campus contest was won by eight School of Technology students representing the Purdue chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers. That machine was based on the theme "Wide World of Sports" and included a miniature downhill skier crashing in a spectacular fashion reminiscent of the opening of that ABC program. The machine used 55 complex steps to tee up a regulation golf ball. The machine also was awarded the "People's Choice" trophy by the audience.

The Purdue team went on to win the national competition, defeating teams from the University of Texas at Austin; Oakland University, Rochester, Mich.; Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.; Vanderbilt University; and the University of Toledo.

Past national competitions have been featured on "Newton's Apple," "Late Night With David Letterman," NBC's "Today," CBS's "This Morning," CBS News, "Beyond 2000," CNN and "Good Morning America."

More information is available at two World Wide Web pages: Theta Tau and PurdueNews.

CONTACT: Joe Martin, interim contest chairman, (765) 743-5276,

Diet and exercise play critical role in cancer prevention

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Poor diet and lack of exercise are behind just as many cancer cases as smoking, says Dennis Savaiano, dean of Purdue's School of Consumer and Family Sciences and professor of foods and nutrition.

"Approximately one-third of cancer cases are related to smoking, one-third to poor diet and lack of exercise, and one-third to genetic or other factors," he says. "Most Americans are already aware of the detrimental effects of smoking, but the rate of obesity and poor diet in this country is cause for alarm."

Savaiano, who is chairman of the Food and Nutrition Science Alliance, or FANSA, recently worked with several of the organization's members to review scientific studies on diet and cancer. FANSA is a joint committee of the American Dietetic Association, the American Society for Nutritional Sciences, the American Society for Clinical Nutrition and the Institute of Food Technologists.

The group has issued a statement urging Americans to change their diets to help reduce the number of cancer-related deaths.

Savaiano notes that though some types of cancer are more influenced by diet than others, nutrition and food scientists agree that there are four practical diet-related ways to lower cancer risk:

• Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes in accordance with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Guide Pyramid.

• Avoid empty calories from highly processed foods that are high in fat and/or sugar.

• Choose activities that involve moderate or vigorous exercise.

• Limit or abstain from alcohol.

He says that consumers should not let fear of pesticide residues deter them from eating fruits and vegetables, because the benefits of eating these foods appear to outweigh any potential risk.

Savaiano attributes Americans' difficulty in developing a healthy lifestyle to several factors, including lack of knowledge on how to implement specific actions and a lack of marketing forces aimed at creating consumer demand for a healthy lifestyle.

"Many foods that are widely advertised tend to be high in calories and relatively low in nutrients, while few advertisements appear for less processed foods such as vegetables and fruits or whole grains and beans," he says.

Long workweeks also translate into less time for meal preparation, he says, noting that meals often are purchased as takeout or from fast-food restaurants.

Savaiano says that in order to effect a change, all food, nutrition, fitness, health and government organizations must work together to promote healthy lifestyles.

CONTACT: Savaiano, (765) 494-8213; savaiano@cfs.purdue

Purdue expert: Take your calcium throughout the day

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Keeping track of your daily calcium intake may not be enough to ensure that your body absorbs adequate amounts to prevent osteoporosis, says a Purdue University expert.

Connie Weaver, head of Purdue's Department of Foods and Nutrition and an expert in calcium absorption, says women who take calcium supplements after a meal high in calcium-rich foods may not absorb as much as they think.

"The body is quite efficient at absorbing calcium levels up to 500 milligrams but becomes less efficient for amounts above that," Weaver says. "The best advice is to eat a calcium-rich source at every meal, and if you are using supplements, the supplement would serve as the calcium-rich source for that meal."

Intake recommendations for calcium are 1,000 milligrams a day, or about three servings of milk, for adults under 50, and 1,200 milligrams a day for adults over 50 to help counteract bone loss due to aging. For children, the daily intake recommendations are 800 milligrams for ages 6-8 and 1,300 milligrams, or about four servings of milk, for youngsters ages 9-18.

CONTACT: Weaver; (765) 494-8231;

Compiled by Sharon Bowker, (765) 494-0371;

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;


Purdue's 17th annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest winners react in February 1999 after their machine performed a perfect run-through. Members of the winning team, representing the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and the School of Technology, were, from left: John Spitzer, Stephen Schrock and Timothy Clauss. This year's contest will be Feb. 12. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger)
A publication-quality photograph is available at the News Service Web site and at the ftp site. Photo ID: Rube00.preview

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