Purdue News

February 2, 2005

Students light up for Rube Goldberg Machine Contest

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – In an age where technology aims to simplify the world, a contest at Purdue University will reward students for creative complexity.

2004 national winner
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The 22nd annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest will take place at 11 a.m. March 5, and the national competition will be on April 9, both at Purdue. Sponsored by Theta Tau fraternity, the contest pits against each other teams of students and their machines designed to do simple tasks in the most complicated ways possible.

For this year's contest, machines must remove two batteries from a flashlight, replace them and turn on the flashlight. While 20 steps is the minimum number required to complete the task, most teams use many more. The winning machines must complete two successful runs, and points are deducted if students have to assist the machine once it has started, said Dan Kleinbaum, Theta Tau's Purdue contest chairman.

Judges will award points based on the creative use of materials and related themes.

"The focus of the contest is on creativity and technical knowledge of the team members," said Kleinbaum, a sophomore in the School of Mechanical Engineering from Ann Arbor, Mich. "Designing and building the machines incorporates the principles of engineering and science – from lasers to levers – that will be important to their careers."

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

The Purdue contest begins at 11 a.m. in Purdue Armory on the Purdue campus. The doors open at 10:30 a.m., and the contest is free and open to the public. Purdue's College of Technology and College of Engineering also support the event.

For the national contest, the Purdue winner will face those from other universities, which in past years have included the University of Texas at Austin, Hofstra University, Ohio State University, the University of Toledo and George Washington University. This year marks the 17th national contest.

Teams from either Purdue or the University of Texas-Austin have won the national contest each year since 1997. Purdue's chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers won last year's local contest and then went on to win the national competition. The election-themed machine, made by a group of students from the College of Technology, used 71 steps to select, mark and cast a ballot.

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.

Writer: Matt Holsapple, (765) 494-2073, mholsapple@purdue.edu

Source: Dan Kleinbaum, (765) 743-2461, dkleinba@purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


Note to Journalists: Journalists can cover both contests. Purdue will provide video and photo pool coverage of the event. Video of the competition will be distributed via satellite shortly after each contest. An ISDN line is available for radio interviews. A news release, photos and audio clips will be available at https://www.purdue.edu the afternoon of the contest. If you have questions, contact Matt Holsapple at the Purdue News Service, (765) 494-2073, mholsapple@purdue.edu. Questions about video or requests for video of previous years' contests should be directed to Jesica Webb at (765) 494-2079, jwebb@purdue.edu.


Purdue University seniors Curt McDowell, team co-captain from Goshen, Ind., and Bryan Wilson, from New Harmony, Ind., work on the Society of Manufacturing Engineers' machine during the 2004 National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest in Lambert Fieldhouse. The team from Purdue claimed first place and the People's Choice Award over four other university teams from around the country. This year's local contest will take place March 5 and the national competition will be April 9. (Purdue News Service file photo/Dave Umberger)

A publication-quality photo is available at https://ftp.purdue.edu/pub/uns/+2004/rubenat04-puwin2.jpg


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