ASME three-peats at Penn State Rube Goldberg Machine Competition

February 28, 2011

For the third year in a row, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) came out on top at the Penn State Rube Goldberg Machine Contest Saturday at the Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel. The competition, in its sixth year, requires teams to design and build a contraption that executes a trivial task in the most elaborate way possible.

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Five teams of engineering students competed in the contest, which challenged them to build a machine that waters a plant in 20 or more steps.

ASME's machine was designed with a Penn State sports theme, complete with a mockup of Beaver Stadium and Joe Paterno. Penn State-themed music and chants played as the machine ran.

"We just decided it's something everyone has in common -- we all go to Penn State," said junior mechanical engineering student Tom Ort. "It's something we can all be proud of."

ASME's first-place win earned the team a spot in the national competition on March 26 at Purdue University. This will be ASME's third consecutive year representing the University at nationals. Penn State placed third last year at Purdue.

ASME also won the People's Choice award for being the audience's favorite. It was voted on by patrons throughout the competition.

Members of the Penn State Engineering Alumni Society judged the competition. Each team represented a Penn State engineering organization: ASME, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Society of Engineering Science, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the Society of Women Engineers.

Each contraption portrayed a creative story or theme. These ranged from school pride to popular movies like Wall-E and Toy Story, as well as computer parts and life on Mars.

The competition was comprised of three rounds. Each team was eligible to enter two of its runs to be judged. If a machine malfunctioned during a run, team members were permitted void that run before it finished, requiring the other two rounds to be entered for scoring. All five teams voided in the first round due to malfunctions.

Before the national competition in four weeks, ASME member and mechanical engineering senior Tom Devine says the team has some work to do.

"We're going to try to iron out a few wrinkles, and if we come up with anymore ideas, we'll try to incorporate them, as well," he said.

ASME team members came up with their machine's design during the fall semester. They began construction in mid-January, working two times a week for three hours. Over the last two weeks, the team worked four days a week in preparation for the contest.

"I'm ready to go to bed," Devine said.

The Rube Goldberg Machine Contest is named after cartoonist and inventor Reuben Lucius Goldberg, who created cartoons in the mid-1900s that combined simple machines and common household items to create wacky contraptions that accomplished trivial tasks.

Additional information is available online at online.

  • The American Society of Mechanical Engineers' Penn State sports-themed contraption won both the top prize and People's Choice Award at Saturday's Rube Goldberg Machine Competition at the Penn Stater Conference Center and Hotel.

    IMAGE: Curtis Chan

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 21, 2011