ASME extends winning streak at regional Rube contest

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), University Park chapter, won the Penn State Regional Rube Goldberg Machine Contest for the fifth year in a row on Saturday afternoon at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel.

In addition to winning a trophy and cash prize, ASME University Park earned the chance to represent Penn State at the national competition on March 30 in Columbus, Ohio.

Teams representing four other Penn State student organizations also competed in the contest: ASME, Harrisburg chapter; the Chinese Undergraduate Student Association (CUSA); the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), and the Engineering Leadership Society.  (ELS).

All teams were challenged to use innovative ideas, unconventional problem-solving skills and a little humor to design and build a machine that hammered a nail in 20 or more steps.

ASME Harrisburg placed second in the overall contest, followed by ELS in third place. The People’s Choice Award went to ASME Harrisburg’s machine, which featured favorite toys from childhood including old video gaming systems, a bowling ball and guitars.

Teams were judged on two runs of their machine and had the option of voiding one of their first two runs in favor of a third, provided the void was called before the task was completed.

All five teams used the time between rounds to make adjustments or repairs to their machines.

IEEE ran into slight difficulties during their first run. “It could’ve gone better, everything was working before we left,” said team captain Michael Rybar, an electrical engineering senior. “We were glad the audience was rooting for us despite everything and were really into it.”

Throughout the months leading up to the event, teams put countless hours into building their machines.

CUSA team captain Xiaomo Zhang, a junior in aerospace engineering, said he and his team dedicated more than 100 hours to the entire process. “This is a really meaningful activity and it is good to interact with the community, gain leadership experience and create machine designs,” he explained.

ELS team captain Yolainne Moran, who agreed, adding that she really enjoyed the entire process of the contest and bringing in new ideas from the first-year student members her team. The ELS machine featured a “Luck of the Irish” theme.

ASME University Park came up with the idea for their machine after throwing around several ideas between team members said team captain Alec Tanida, a senior in mechanical engineering. “We knew that an Avengers theme would be good because it is relevant and would get the attention of kids with Captain America and the Hulk,” he recalled.

Tanida competed in the 2011 and 2012 national competitions as a member of the 2011 and 2012 ASME University Park teams and said it really helped him and some of his teammates prepare for the regional contest and remain calm under pressure.

The contest is named after Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, Reuben Lucius Goldberg, who drew cartoons that combined simple machine parts and household items to create contraptions that accomplished simple tasks in a laughable number of excess steps. Although he never built any of his machines, Goldberg’s creative thought process and innovation have become an inspiration to engineers and scientists all over the world.

More information about the event is available at: www.engr.psu.edu/RubeGoldberg.

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Last Updated April 30, 2013