Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Rube Goldberg Machine Contest-Wrapup

We attended the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest at The Museum of Science and Industry on April 22 and it was amazing!    I previewed the goings on earlier on the blog, and it was every bit as magical and wonderful as I expected it to be.

In case you've forgotten, the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest has been challenging students for over 30 years to devise and build their own convoluted contraptions to solve a simple “problem.” This year’s competition challenge: Pour a Bowl of Cereal.  (sponsored by, of course General Mills!)

The devices are based on the work of Rube Goldberg, a prolific 20nth century cartoonist.  In fact, his grand daughter was on hand, and gave a talk about her grandfather that was pretty interesting!

Here's an example of just one of the many teams and their inventive contraptions.

What was great about going to the event and talking to all of the makers was how committed these young people were to the idea of invention and all of that entails, including experimentation, iteration, and failure.  I got a chance to talk to a bunch of the teams (including one of the elementary teams from Schaumburg as well as a perennial favorite college team from Purdue, who seemed to have two teams fielded in the finals) and all of them told me how much fun it was, and how much fun figuring out the problem was, and then trying to figure out the solution.

The winning team from Chino California
I was particularly impressed with the zeal of the team from Chino California, whose Rube Goldberg machine started their cereal journey in the farms of Chino, and then followed the life-cycle of the cereal and milk until it made its way into the bowl (which in their zany case, ended up being a giant toilet bowl, reminding us of the FULL cycle of food.

The students were all dressed in costume as various inhabitants of the different stages represented, including a giant cow and a pig costume.  They were fully committed to their roles, and they were so articulate about what they got out of it, that I was not surprised to hear that they took first place in their division

There were also a few other activities, including one sponsored by local group BitSpace Chicago, that taught kids how to saw, clamp, and even use power tools, and then interface them to the computer.  My son had a lot of fun at that event also.  And we really enjoyed the lecture by YouTube Rube Goldberg maker Joseph Herscher, who gave a talk on what inspires him to create, and how he goes about it.  That was a great inside look at the work of a pretty brilliant inventor.

Learning to use tools with BitSpaceChicago at the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest Finals at MSI
 Even those kids that didn't win did a great job and showed tremendous amounts of inventiveness and creativity.  However, there must be winners, and in this case, there were a bunch.  Congrats to all of the winners, but also congrats to all of the participants!

Here's a video montage of our day at the event.  This includes some pictures and some video and a whole lot of fun.


There were four divisions, and here are the winners (for the first time this year, there was an apprentice division, and the three top winners all came from Illinois!  I hope that the finals are somewhere close by next year!  (And I am definitely bringing this up to our PTA to see if my son's school (The Walt Disney Magnet School, which focuses on arts and technology) can field a team next year.  It seems like a natural fit! )

Apprentice (Elementary School)
Professor Butt’s Creative Sparks: St. Hubert Catholic School, Hoffman Estates, IL
Apprentice Spirit of Hilarious Invention: Hoover Math and Science Academy, Schaumburg, IL
Apprentice Helping Hand: Collins Elementary School, Schaumburg, IL

Division I (Middle School)
Lyle S Briggs School, Chino, CA

Division II (High School)
Rho Gamma Phi from Chatfield High School, Chatfield, MN

Division III (University)
Purdue PSPE, West Lafayette, IN

To find out more about competing, visit http://www.rubegoldberg.com

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