Purdue News

March 28, 2005

Purdue team goes for spotlight in national Rube Goldberg contest

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University will try to light up a three-peat in complexity and inefficiency at the 18th annual national Rube Goldberg Machine Contest.

2005 Local winner
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The contest, which is free and open to the public, begins at 11 a.m. on April 9 in Purdue Armory on the Purdue campus. Doors open at 10:30 a.m. Teams from several other universities will compete against Purdue Society of Professional Engineers team with complex machines designed to replace the batteries in a flashlight in at least 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 Purdue Society of Professional Engineers used an outer-space-themed machine to beat seven other teams in Purdue's local competition on March 5.

This year machines must remove the batteries from a flashlight, replace them and turn on the flashlight.

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

"For teams from Purdue to have won the last two national contests is very impressive," said Greg Wilson, Theta Tau national contest chairman and a junior in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics from Fort Wayne, Ind. "Along with Purdue, teams from other universities have been bringing machines that are more and more creative and elaborate. They continue to embrace the creativity of Rube Goldberg's drawings in their diverse solutions to the task."

The line-up of teams for the competition has not been finalized, but frequent participants include the University of Texas-Austin, Ferris State University and the University of Toledo. Representatives are chosen from preliminary contests at each university.

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 of whimsical complexity.

The Purdue Society of Professional Engineers used 125-steps – more than six times the required 20 –not only to win the Purdue contest, but also capture the People's Choice Award, chosen by the general public who are in attendance. The 125 steps were by far the most of the competitors in the Purdue contest.

"Every year we try to build the most complex machine in the contest," said Purdue Society of Professional Engineers team co-captain Kevin Hollingsworth, a senior in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics from Zionsville, Ind. "This year we started planning major steps in September – before we even knew what the task would be – so we could add more steps. This is the most complex machine we have entered."

Besides Hollingsworth, other team members are Jason Downey, a junior in nuclear engineering from Goshen, Ind.; Nathan Flatt, a sophomore in mechanical engineering from Martinsville, Ind.; Greg Henning, a senior in aeronautics and astronautics, from Indianapolis; Ryan Harold, a junior in mechanical engineering from Wheeling, Ill.; Shawn Jordan, a graduate student in computer engineering from Fort Wayne, Ind.; Devin Keeler, a senior in civil engineering from Randolph, N.J.; Maggie Little, a graduate student in the College of Technology from Crestview Hills, Ky.; Robert Mann, a sophomore in civil engineering from Fort Wayne, Ind.; Andy Mehl, a senior in electrical and computer engineering from Goshen, Ind.; and Drew Wischer, a sophomore in aviation technology from Manitowoc, Wis.

Last year's Purdue winner, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, used an election theme and 74 steps to cast a ballot. That team went on to win the national competition as well. A machine built by Purdue chapters of Theta Tau fraternity and Phi Sigma Rho sorority also captured the 2003 national crown.

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, mholsapple@purdue.edu

Source: Greg Wilson, (765) 743-2461, gswilson@purdue.edu

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


Note to Journalists: Journalists are invited to cover the contest. 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. A news release, photos and audio clips will be available 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.


Related Web site:
Purdue University Home Page


Shawn Jordan of Fort Wayne, Ind. (left) and Andy Mehl of Goshen, Ind., teammates on the Purdue Society of Professional Engineers team, react as their machine is put to the test during the 22nd annual Purdue Rube Goldberg Machine Contest March 5 at Purdue's West Lafayette campus. The team took both first place and the People's Choice Award during the regional contest, qualifying it for the national Rube Goldberg Machine Contest April 9 at Purdue. (Purdue News Service photo/David Umberger)

A publication-quality-photograph is available at https://news.uns.purdue.edu/images/+2005/rubelocal05-winner.jpg


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