Physics Students Participate in the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest

Physics Students Participate in the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest
Posted on 01/11/2017
Rube Goldberg

On March 3, students in Will Dible’s Physics class will be competing in the annual, Rube Goldberg Machine Contest.  Named after the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, Rube Goldberg, two teams of students from Spencer High School will take their zany creations to the competition on the campus of Minnesota State.  Once there, the students will set up their machine, with the hope of meeting this year’s challenge, to apply a band-aid to an object.

“I always have students do a Rube Goldberg so that they understand energy. It is a great way to learn about changing energy forms from potential to kinetic to all different kinds, and I have done it every year.  I have my own requirements, but then I found out that there is actually a competition,” said Dible.  

According to Physics student, Jared Lowe, the point of Rube Goldberg is to have one object hit another to transfer force and energy.  Each of the teams had to design a project with a minimum of 20 steps, and the required final step is to apply a band-aid to an object.  Additionally, the projects had to have a theme, include 300 feet of volume and be transportable.  Upon nearing completion, and in preparation for the competition, Dible brought in teachers to judge the two projects, basing the evaluation tool off of how they will be judged at the contest.  After being judged locally, the students will receive feedback and complete the finishing touches prior to the competition in March.

While the process is rather arduous, it is meant to be humorous as a way of keeping Rube Goldberg’s legacy of laughter and invention alive.  When asked how Team Delicious 3.14 came up with their design, Chloe Baker said, “We thought about it in terms of which one would be the broadest, and which one would be the easiest to use items.  We thought kitchen at the beginning because there are so many different things you can use with kitchen gadgets, but then we started using a lot of mouse traps.  Our theme is mouse in the kitchen, and we have a bunch of mouse traps.  The main thing that we have to do is apply a band-aid to something, so at the end of our project, we have a meat cleaver with a band-aid, and it will be applied to a rubber rat.  It was a lot of work to make sure that everything works at the same time, and it takes a lot of trials to get everything set and ready.

Wren Vogelschmidt, fellow Team Delicious 3.14 member added, “Honestly the biggest challenge we had was getting started.  Once you get your materials, you can figure out how to put them together, but it was really hard to come up with a plan without materials in your hands.”

The second team competing is Spencer’s One Team to Rule Them All.  Carissa Cummings said that they came up with their theme, Junkyard, because all of their pieces sort of fit, but not really.  They came up with the design first and then named it afterwards.  Cumming’s teammate, Ashley Szafraniec added, “The hardest part was figuring out how stuff can connect and making sure that we had the certain number of steps that we needed.  Having everyone on the same page at figuring out what should go together was also important.”  Their final step was to put a band-aid on the face of a mannequin head. 

While being judged, both teams needed a few “interventions” to help the design continue to flow in certain areas, but with a bit more time and practice, they are hopeful that they will have success at the competition.