sealPurdue News

March 2001

Apples and insects form core of Purdue's spring events

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University students suffering from spring fever will have two entertaining options available to them on the West Lafayette campus in April.

On April 7 Purdue will host the 13th annual national Rube Goldberg Machine Contest as well as the annual Bug Bowl. The Bug Bowl – a celebration of all things creepy-crawly – features events on April 7-8.

'Big Apple' theme scores with Rube Goldberg judges

The student chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers will represent the "home team" during the National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest Saturday, April 7. The SME machine took top honors in Purdue's local contest on Feb. 10 with a tribute to New York City that also embraced this year's task: to select, clean and peel an apple.

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"None of the team members have ever visited New York City," said Eric Gossman, member of the winning team and a senior mechanical engineering technology major from Elkhart, Ind. "But we had a brainstorming session in late November, and we all decided that a New York theme would be fun."

The group's machine, named "New York and the Big Apple," was among two of the five contraptions entered in the contest to complete the task without human intervention. All entires were required to finish the job using at least 20 steps and within a time limit. The winning machine used more than 40 steps to win the first-place trophy, $250 and a full-size refrigerator from the contest's corporate sponsor, General Electric. The team also earned the right to represent Purdue in the national competition.

The contest honors the late cartoonist Rube Goldberg, who specialized in drawing whimsical, complicated machines to perform very simple tasks. The student-built machines were judged on completion of the task, creativity, the number of steps involved and how well they embraced the Rube Goldberg spirit.

The "New York and the Big Apple" machine used items such as a golf ball painted like a Harlem Globetrotters basketball that bounced from a trampoline to a basketball hoop, a figure of King Kong climbing the Empire State Building, a pool ball rolling across the Brooklyn Bridge and a jet flying out of LaGuardia Airport. Music, including the Globetrotters theme, "New York, New York," "The Heart of Rock and Roll" and "Arthur's Theme," was timed to accompany the machine's progress.

The winning team dedicated more than 700 hours since November working on the machine. Gossman said the most difficult part of creating the winning entry was dreaming up the steps.

"I always get caught up, however, when the fountain turns on in Central Park," he said as he sat watching the machine's second run on the large video screen in Purdue's Elliott Hall of Music. "It's hard to see but, thankfully, I can always hear the motor."

The national contest will be at West Lafayette High School. Last year teams from the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Toledo, Northern Illinois University, Oakland University, Marquette University and Northwestern University competed.

Previous contests have been featured on "Late Night With David Letterman," CBS' "This Morning," ABC's "Good Morning America," NBC's "Today," Newton's Apple" and CNN.

CONTACTS: Fernando Cordero, contest chairman, (765) 743-2623,; Eric Gossman, SME team member, (765) 464-3437.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS:  Video b-roll of the local Rube Goldberg contest and previous national contests is available. Contact Jenny Pratt at the Purdue News Service, (765) 494-2079,


Bugs a-plenty, bugs galore

Bugs hissing, bugs racing, bugs in a stew. Bug petting, bug study in a bug zoo. Bugs – and more bugs – are the featured attraction at Purdue University's annual Bug Bowl, Saturday and Sunday, April 7-8.

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More than 10,000 people are expected to visit Bug Bowl, which offers unusual encounters with insects, bug demonstrations and experts available to offer advice on pest problems.

Events include an insect-themed cake decorating contest, an insects-as-food booth (which will offer, among other taste sensations, insect stir fry), a human caterpillar canter, an insect petting zoo, insect crafts, a butterfly exhibit and – a crowd favorite – cockroach racing at "Roach Hill Downs." New this year will be an exhibit of antique insect toys.

"The petting zoo features a millipede, Madagascar hissing cockroach and a tarantula," said Tom Turpin, professor of entomology. "Although the tarantula is not really a bug, it's a Bug Bowl favorite."

Bug Bowl is one of several events on the Purdue campus that weekend in conjunction with the Purdue Spring Fest. Other activities include the Boiler Barnyard; Boiler Brick Bowl, in which Purdue students compete in building brick structures; a make your own dinosaur bones exhibit; a horticulture show; a space food display and more. For a complete listing of Spring Fest activities, check out the Web site.

CONTACT: Tom Turpin (765) 494-9061.

Writer: Sharon Bowker, (765) 494-9723,

Related Web sites:

Theta Tau Fraternity Rube Goldberg Web page
Purdue University News Service Rube Goldberg Web page


Josh Hurst, a senior from Lafayette, Ind., celebrates a successful run of the winning entry in Purdue University's Rube Goldberg Machine on Feb. 10. The entry will represent Purdue in the April 7 national competition (Purdue University 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: Rubelocal3.2001

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Hannah Becker handles a nine-inch tropical millipede as sister, Erica, looks on at Purdue's Bug Bowl. Both girls are from West Lafayette. (Purdue News Service file photo by David Umberger)
A publication-quality photograph is available at the News Service Web site and at the ftp site. Photo ID: Bugbowl2000.preview.jpeg

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