sealPurdue Science and Health Briefs

December 2000

An apple a day the Rube Goldberg way

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Apples are at the core of Purdue University's 19th annual Rube Goldberg contest slated for Feb. 10.

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

This year's machines must select, clean and peel an apple in 20 steps or more. The entire process must take nine minutes or less. Students traditionally combine principles of physics and engineering with common objects, such as rubber bands, marbles, mouse traps and bicycle gears when building their machines.

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 their materials and use of related themes.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will be at 11 a.m. in Purdue's Elliott Hall of Music. The winner will represent the university in the National Rube Goldberg Contest at West Lafayette High School on April 7.

In previous contests, students' machines have been required to make a cup of coffee, toast a piece of bread, put a stamp on an envelope and drop a penny into a piggy bank.

Ten engineering students representing the Society of Women Engineers won last year's campus contest which honored the 20th century by filling a time capsule with the best inventions, ideas and discoveries of the century. The group's machine, named "Traveling Through Time," placed 10 items into the capsule in 37 steps.

More information is available at two World Wide Web pages:

Theta Tau Fraternity

Purdue University News Service

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: 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. Video and photographs of past contests are available. If you have questions, contact Jenny Pratt at the Purdue News Service, (765) 494-2079,

CONTACT: Fernando Cordero, contest chairman, (765) 743-2623,

Students set their sites on winning $5,000 Internet Olympiad

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Students are racing against time in a high-tech showdown to create new, commercially viable Internet technology in Purdue's first Internet Olympiad.

"The goal of the Internet Olympiad," said Aditya Mathur, associate head of the Department of Computer Sciences, "is to get students to develop a prototype of an Internet application for which they could get venture capital funding and start a company."

In early November, six out of 54 teams in round one, a "quiz show" competition, became semifinalists. One week later, the winning teams had 96 hours to create an interactive Web site for, a fictional company. Judges selected three winning teams to compete in February's final round of competition.

In the final round, the remaining teams will have three months to create an Internet-based application. Twenty experts from the computer industry will select the winning team based on criteria including the teams use of creativity and the application's commercial potential.

Next year, Mathur would like to expand the competition to students from other colleges and universities.

Founding corporate sponsor of the event is Tivoli. Other sponsors are IBM Corp., Schulmberger, Eli Lilly and Co., and Microsoft.

CONTACT: Aditya Mathur, associate head, Department of Computer Sciences, (765) 494-7823,

Doctoral student develops concrete that cures below freezing

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue doctoral student Charles J. Korhonen has led a team developing a new type of concrete that cures in below-freezing temperatures, an innovation with implications for the construction industry, which spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually to heat construction sites.

Korhonen is a research civil engineer with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, N.H. He has received a national award for leading the team that developed the concrete to solve a problem at the Sequoyah Nuclear Power Plant, operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority and located near Chattanooga, Tenn.

The concrete floors in the plant's ice-storage rooms had heaved upward because of frost action and needed to be repaired. The dilemma was that the work had to be done under the tight time constraints of a nuclear refueling outage and at minus 8 degrees Celsius, the operating temperature of the ice-storage rooms. The storage room temperature was too cold for ordinary concrete to cure properly.

Korhonen, in a joint effort with the Tennessee Valley Authority, S&ME Singleton Labs in Louisville, Tenn., and a private material and concrete construction consultant, developed a lightweight Portland cement mixture that allowed repairs without shutting down the nuclear plant or disrupting service.

"This technology for placing concrete at sub-freezing temperatures could extend the concrete construction season by several months in much of North America," said Korhonen. "Currently, the U.S. construction industry spends about $1 billion per year to provide heated enclosures for placing concrete at below-freezing outdoor temperatures. Approximately $800 million of that cost is in heat from non-renewable fossil fuels, much of which could be saved by adopting this new low-temperature concrete technology."

As part of his doctoral thesis, Korhonen is investigating how durable low-temperature concrete mixtures are in terms of how well they stand up to the constant freezing and thawing of everyday use.

A Purdue doctoral candidate, Korhonen has been a member of the Army laboratory's technical staff since 1975. He lives in Etna, N.H., and is writing his doctoral thesis in absentia, having passed his oral and written exams and satisfied all other degree requirements.

CONTACT: Marie Darling, (603) 646-4292,

Compiled by Susan Gaidos, (765) 494-2081; e-mail,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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