sealPurdue News

February 1996

Students to put in two cents worth at Rube Goldberg contest

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Creativity, ingenuity and a bit of common "cents" will be the keys to victory for college students who participate in the ninth annual National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest at Purdue University on March 23.

Each year, students from across the country are challenged to build complicated and often humorous machines to accomplish a very simple task -- put a stamp on an envelope, screw in a light bulb, fry an egg -- in 20 or more steps. This year, students are building contraptions to place a coin or coins in a bank.

Students build their machines by combining the principles of physics and engineering with common objects, such as marbles, mouse traps, vacuum cleaner and bicycle parts, stuffed animals, bowling balls, electric drills, tin cans, rubber tubing and small kitchen appliances.

Each machine must run, be reset and run again in nine minutes. Machines also will be judged and awarded points based on the creative use of materials and use of related themes. Points are taken off for human intervention after the machine starts or for exceeding the time limit.

The event honors the late cartoonist Rube Goldberg, who specialized in drawing whimsical machines with complex mechanisms to perform simple tasks.

The contest, free and open to the public, begins at 11:30 a.m. EST in Purdue's Elliott Hall of Music.

Purdue's team will be chosen Feb. 24 at Purdue's local contest. Purdue won the national competition last year. Some of the teams expected to challenge Purdue for the 1996 title include Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y. ; the University of Texas-Austin ; Indiana University, Bloomington ; and Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.

The winning team will receive a cash prize and the five-foot-tall traveling Rube Goldberg trophy. The second- and third-place teams also receive cash and trophies.

In addition to prizes for the top three teams, a "People's Choice" award will be given to the team whose machine gets the most votes by audience members. A small Rube Goldberg-type bank will be presented to the first child whose name is drawn at random from the ballots.

The contest is organized by Purdue students, who also maintain a World Wide Web page at <>.

The contest at Purdue started in 1949 and ran until 1955. It was revived by Theta Tau, a national engineering fraternity, in 1983 to celebrate National Engineers' Week. The first National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest was held at Purdue in 1988.

Last year's task was to turn on a radio. Purdue won the 1995 contest, marking the university's first national championship since 1991, when the task was to toast a slice of bread.

Past contests have attracted nationwide attention, with coverage in publications from the Wall Street Journal and Discover to People and Seventeen magazines. They also have been featured on a number of television shows, including "Newton's Apple," "Late Night With David Letterman," "Live With Regis and Kathie Lee," "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," NBC's "Today," ABC's "Good Morning America," CBS's "This Morning," CBS News and CNN.

The contest also has received international television coverage from Australian-produced "Beyond 2000" and a Japanese science and technology program called "High-Tech Shower."

Source: Bryan Landsiedel, contest chairman, (765) 743-2461; Internet,
Writer: Amanda Siegfried, (765) 494-4709; Internet,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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. Video b-roll, photos and a news release will be available the afternoon of the event. Satellite assistance is available. For more information, call Amanda Siegfried, News Service, (765) 494-4709.

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