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Month 22, 2004

Past primaries, Purdue Rube Goldberg team goes for national win

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A group of Purdue School of Technology students will try to earn the university's second consecutive national title on April 3 during the 17th annual national Theta Tau Rube Goldberg Machine Contest.

2004 local winners
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The contest, which is free and open to the public, begins at 11 a.m. in Lambert Fieldhouse on the Purdue campus, and doors open at 10:30 a.m. Teams from several other universities will compete against Purdue's Society of Manufacturing Engineers team with complex machines designed to mark and cast a ballot in a minimum of 20 steps.

The Rube Goldberg Machine Contest pays homage to the late cartoonist Rube Goldberg, who specialized in drawing whimsical machines with complex mechanisms to perform simple tasks. The Society of Manufacturing Engineers used an election-themed machine to beat seven other teams in Purdue's local competition on Feb. 28.

Purdue's chapter of the Theta Tau fraternity organizes the contest, which is being sponsored by BAE Systems, Fluor, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Motorola and Parker Hannifin.

"In this year's Purdue competition, the range and creativity in the machines were among the best we have seen," said fraternity member Joshua R. Sandler, national contest chairman and a junior in the School of Technology. "They demonstrated Rube Goldberg's idea of different solutions solving the same problem. I am sure that the quality of machines from other schools will continue to raise the bar the Purdue teams set."

Among those competing in the upcoming national contest are teams from the University of Texas-Austin, Michigan State University, Ferris State University and the University of Toledo.

The winning machines must complete two successful runs, and points are deducted if students have to assist the machine once it has started. Teams are judged on completion of the task, creativity, the number of steps used and how well the machines exemplify the Rube Goldberg spirit.

Employing a theme that incorporated elections and hanging chads, Purdue's Society of Manufacturing Engineers used 70 steps – three-and-a-half times the required number – to complete the task and earn the right to represent Purdue in the national contest.

"We didn't plan on having that many steps," said Andrew Nymeyer, a senior in the School of Technology and co-chair of the winning team. "A week before the competition, we only had about 30, but every time something didn't work, we had to add a couple more to fix the problem. It got a little out of hand."

Last year's local winner, representing Purdue's chapters of Theta Tau and Phi Sigma Rho sorority, used a Purdue sports-themed machine to select, crush and pitch a 12-ounce aluminum can into a recycling bin. The group went on to win the national competition and later appeared with their winning machine on "The Late Show with David Letterman."

In previous contests, students' machines have been required to select, clean and peel an apple; make a cup of coffee; toast a piece of bread; put a stamp on an envelope; and drop a penny into a piggy bank. Winners have appeared on television shows internationally, including CBS' "This Morning," ABC's "Good Morning America," NBC's "Today," "Newton's Apple," "Ripley's Believe it of Not," the Fox News Network and CNN.

Rube Goldberg and the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest are the trademark and copyright of Rube Goldberg Inc.

Writer: Matt Holsapple, (765) 494-2073,

Source: Joshua R. Sandler, (765) 743-2461,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

Note to Journalists: Purdue will provide video and photo pool coverage of the event. Video of the competition will be distributed via satellite shortly after the contest. An ISDN line is available for radio interviews if requested in advance. Video b-roll, photos, audio clips and a news release will be available the afternoon of the contest. If you have questions, contact Matt Holsapple at the Purdue News Service, (765) 494-2073, Questions about video or requests for video of previous years' contests can be directed to Jesica Webb at (765) 494-2079,

Related Web site:
Purdue University Rube Goldberg Machine Contest

From left, Brian Enlow, a senior from Fishers, Ind., and Kreig Kaiser, a junior from Elwood, Ind., watch their machine completes a successful run on Feb. 28 during Purdue's Rube Goldberg Machine Contest. Their machine, sponsored by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, won the competition and will represent Purdue at the national contest on April 3. Teams in the contest had to build machines that used a minimum of 20 steps to cast a ballot using principles of engineering and physics. (Purdue News Service file photo/Mark Simons)

A publication-quality file photo is available at

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