March Madness might have had a lot of local sports fans wearing orange, but when Genesee Community College traveled to Syracuse to this past weekend they ended up coming home with a win — for their Rube Goldberg Machine.
The concept behind Rube Goldberg Machines is simple. Using household items, a team of at least four students must construct a mechanism that can accomplish a simple task in the most complex way possible.
Using things like pool balls, a baseball bat and glove, DVD covers, a plinko board, a fishing reel, a Barbie doll on a zip line, a computer printer, dozens of plastic soda bottles, darts, a derby car and lots of engineering ingenuity, five GCC students constructed a machine to water a plant and compete against Syracuse University at Onondaga Community College this past weekend. With this recent win, the students will load their plant watering device into a truck and travel to Purdue University in Indiana to enter the National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest on March 26, 2011.
GCC Physics Professor Michael Crittenden explained that when he asked his classes if anyone was interested in attempting a Rube Goldberg Machine, no one spoke up right away. “A couple of days later, a few students said they’d like to try it,” Crittenden said. “They’ve taken responsibility for it themselves and they’re still doing a great job.”
Engineering students David Simmons (Arcade, NY), Matt Klotzbach (East Pembroke, NY), Nick Rider (Holland, NY), Jen McLure (Pavilion, NY) and drafting student Tom Langley (Arcade) had been working tirelessly before the competition to put their machine together. For the last four weeks, they spent at least 20 hours a week developing their project expecting stiff competition at nationals.
According to the Official Rulebook for the 2011 Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, teams must adhere to strict guidelines according to size and time. The contraption must fit within a six by six by six foot space and complete the task with a minimum of 20 steps - within two minutes per run.
The exact definition of a “step” according to the Rube Goldberg Machine Rulebook is to simply transfer energy from one action into another action.
Rube Goldberg, an American cartoonist who passed away in 1970, was known for the series of cartoons he would draw involving complex, winding devices that perform simple tasks in complicated ways. The students are judged on a recognizable theme for the machine; their demonstrated Rube Goldberg “spirit;” team chemistry; and how well the machine works within the given criteria.
Genesee Community College students say they’re aiming for the gold this weekend, but Crittenden is positive that no matter what happens, it will have been a fun trip for the College’s first Rube Goldberg competitors.
“If we get gold or last place, we’ll be having fun and that’s what’s important,” he said. “Also, this builds a lot of practical skills such as teamwork, imagination and persistence. So, we’ll be trying it again. We’re making this up as we go along but we hope to get a club together next year.”
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Editor’s Note: For a photograph of engineering students David Simmons (left) and Matt Klotzbach (right) standing with their plant watering, award winning Rube Goldberg Machine in its beta site go to: http://marketing.genesee.edu/images/RubeGoldbergStudents.jpg