ASME finishes first at Rube Goldberg Contest with 'Super Mario' theme

University Park, Pa. — Teams of Penn State engineers lit up the HUB-Robeson Center's Alumni Hall Saturday in Penn State's fourth annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest.

Named for the late engineer-turned-cartoonist Reuben Lucius Goldberg, the competition challenges students to build a machine that makes a simple task as complicated as possible.

This year's competition involved replacing an incandescent light bulb with a more energy efficient light-emitting diode in 20 or more steps.

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) won first prize for its machine, which was modeled after the classic Nintendo video game "Super Mario Brothers." ASME also nabbed the coveted People's Choice Award.

Andrew Diehl, team spokesperson, said the machine was geared toward the audience's younger demographic.

"We know a lot of kids come, so we did a Mario theme. It's something everyone can relate to and the kids really like it. Last year, we had a Dr. Seuss theme," he explained.

Proving great minds think alike, Penn State Brandywine's Engineering Club and the Envisioneers, the student component of Penn State's Leonhard Center for the Advancement of Engineers, showed off Batman-themed machines. Both groups took home awards for their designs; the Envisioneers earned third place and Brandywine came in second.

The Society of Women Engineers from Penn State New Kensington donned hard hats and neon yellow safety vests to run their machine, which was designed to look like a construction zone.

"Last year we didn't finish our project on time and we didn't make it to the competition," lamented team captain Dana Horn. "This time we wanted to be ready, so we started working on the machine in December."

The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers based their design on the human body. Their machine featured a part-cardboard, part-wood man affectionately named "Pepito." Team member Paco Aguilar said size was the biggest problem for his group.

"We had to work on the machine in small parts and then put everything together this morning," he said.

ASME's first-place finish means the team will travel to Purdue University on March 28 to compete in the National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest.

For photos, visit http://live.psu.edu/stilllife/1988 online.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010