sealPurdue News

April 1997

Rube contestants tinker with computers, CD players

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Video and photographs of past contests are available. An ISDN line is available for radio interviews. 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, contact Amanda Siegfried, News Service, (765) 494-4709; e-mail,

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- It's a technophobe's worst nightmare -- a machine that actually makes a computer MORE difficult to operate.

But that's what students from seven universities are building -- on purpose -- for the ninth annual National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest at 11:30 a.m. April 5 in Purdue University's Elliott Hall of Music. (NOTE: The date has been changed from March 29.)

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 load a CD into a computer and run a program, or into a CD player and play music.

The contest is free and open to the public.

Goldberg was a cartoonist who specialized in drawing whimsical machines with complex mechanisms to perform simple tasks.

Teams signed up to compete, in addition to Purdue, are: Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y. ; Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, Mich. ; Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, Miss. ; the University of Texas-Austin ; the University of Toledo ; and the University of Wisconsin-Madison .

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

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. A "People's Choice" award will be given to the team whose machine gets the most votes from audience members.

The contest is organized by student members of the Purdue chapter of Theta Tau, a professional engineering fraternity, with support from Rube Goldberg Inc. The fraternity maintains a World Wide Web page at <>. Purdue News Service also maintains information for the public and journalists at <>

The contest at Purdue started in 1949 and ran until 1955. It was revived by Theta Tau in 1983 to celebrate National Engineers' Week. The first National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest was held at Purdue in 1989.

CONTACT: Daniel Colpi, contest chairman, (765) 743-8135; e-mail,
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

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