National Win for UA Rube Goldberg TeamBy Pete Brown - April 24, 2012, 9:29 am
The UA Engineering Rube Goldberg Club returned from its first national competition recently with the Rube Goldberg Legacy Award.
After qualifying at the regional competition on the UA campus during Engineers Week in February, the UA team competed in the March final at Purdue University in Indiana, where they won the Legacy award.
The Legacy Award was presented to the team by Rube Goldberg's granddaughter, Jennifer George, legacy director of Rube Goldberg Inc. The award is given for a Rube Goldberg machine that best incorporates humor with critical thinking.
The UA's machine, Wilma Wildcat and the Restless Restroom, was a hit with competition attendees because it actually looked like a bathroom, complete with a real toilet, shower and sink, not to mention a spider and a scurrying rat.
"We were told by many at competition that we had a great team, and we were definitely able to showcase the talent and ingenuity of U of A's engineering students," said Chris Cantoni, team president and materials science and engineering junior. The simple task for their complex machine was to inflate and burst a balloon in as many steps as possible.
Eight teams, some of them lavishly sponsored, competed at this year's national event. The winning team, St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., actually studies Rube Goldberg as part of its engineering curriculum.
Theta Tau, the Engineering Student Council and ASUA funded this trip, and some members provided personal expenses. The team is already planning for next year's event and is keen to secure industry sponsorship for the intensive design and build, and for the exhausting travel schedule.
"We'd love to have sponsors next year, and make the regional event bigger, too," said Alberto Martin, team member and electrical engineering freshman.
The team could also use some help storing the bathroom-size machine. "It's useful for parts," Martin said. "But we'd like to find space to keep it on display so we can do demos for groups of school students." We'd love someone to step forward and offer us space, he said.
Wilma Wildcat and the Restless Restroom
Next year's competition challenge is to hammer in a nail. That's all. In as many steps as possible. "In a way, it's the antithesis of engineering because it makes things as complex as possible," Cantoni said. "But you still need to know engineering principles to achieve that. And it gives you a greater appreciation for things that are simple."
The Purdue University team set a new world record of 244 steps at the competition, which was verified by representatives from the Guinness Book of World Records present at the competition.