Students Vie To Over-Engineer in 2015 Rube Goldberg Machine Contest

The winning team used a giant gumball machine, a tennis ball, a falling hammer, a bowling ball, a fry pan, tubes and tracks and lightbulbs, a tiny boxing glove and a plastic shark, along with multiple other accessories, all as the most elaborate scheme possible for zipping up a zipper. Purdue University students came up with the overly engineered concoction, demonstrated in this YouTube video, thereby winning the 2014 Rube Goldberg Machine Contest.

A Rube Goldberg Machine is an overly complex contraption, designed with humor and a narrative, to accomplish a simple task. The contest is inspired by the whimsical designs of Pulitzer-winning cartoonist and former engineer Reuben "Rube" Goldberg, whose trademark illustrations took simple tasks and made them superbly complicated.

Purdues 2014 winning entry

Purdue's 2014 winning entry

This year's competition asks participants for the most "overly complex contraption" for erasing a chalkboard or a whiteboard. Teams and their machines will be judged on "absurd complexity, reliability, team chemistry, creativity, humor and story-telling" as well as the completion of the task at hand. Entries must follow at least 20 steps and include no more than 75 steps.

Teams that win a regional contest go onto the "finals." Those events are taking place at Penn State, Drexel University, Purdue, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Wisconsin in Barron County. The national competition takes place on March 28 at the Center of Science and Industry in Columbus, OH.

The same competition also includes divisions for middle school and high school students.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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