Creative Contraptions Showcased at 2012 Rube Goldberg
Thursday, April 5, at the Belcher Gym in the Solheim Arena, electrical engineering students showcased one-of-a-kind inventions in the 2012 Rube Goldberg event. Five teams presented their projects, which were made to feature multiple types of energy transfers in a zany - yet functional - way. "I want them to do something off the wall, if possible," said Dr. Bill Graff.“The focus is on innovation; do something different.” Since the 1980s, Dr. Graff has hosted Rube Goldberg every spring as the crowning achievement of Electronics Lab III. The notoriously rigorous course also includes making a 10 watt amp, a power supply, and a signal generator.
A reportedly record-braking number of students, professors, team members' families, and community members came to cheer on the following inventions:
- “The Wire Lickers” (James Hilbish, Janelle Lemke, Benjamin Wolfgang), which sought to make a "World of Warcraft intervention" by using a desk chair pressure sensor, Hexbugs, basketballs, and LPFR props to trigger a weight and destroy the addicted gamer's computer monitor.
- “Double Stuffed or Nothing” (Malcolm Galland, Matthew Martin, Louis Trevino), a process using a VHS domino effect, an avalanche of marbles, a Lego tower, and Oreo cookies... that's right, Oreos!
- “Team Hamster” (Benjamin Balasa, John McClanahan, Stuart Miller), a clever solution to a pet-sitting dilemma including a pirate ship and swinging hammer that makes sure the high-maintenance rodent is "taken care of."
- “Big Red” (Joel Elizondo, Peter Sculley, Danielle Walter), a chain reaction of books, pendulums, toppling towers, and a giant spring-loaded wand for a glittery ending.
- “Rube Harmonic Symphony” (Ian Barnes, Joshua Brake, Zachary Phillips), a fast-paced, precise track including unorthodox musical instruments (ukelele pendulum, anyone?) to culminate in a catchy song of rhythms and melodies made by each stage's detonation.
Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) was a Jewish-American cartoonist famous for designing fanciful chain reactions in order to accomplish simple tasks. Friends of R.G. LeTourneau often quipped that his initials did not represent the name "Robert Gilmour," but instead referenced his creative mind's similarity to that of the illustrator. LeTourneau's legacy was well represented in the originality and hard work the students invested in their projects. Perseverance was an important virtue for both the construction and demonstration. Despite the countless hours and test runs on each invention, there are no guarantees on how the final run will go. “Even with a well thought-out plan, you have to be flexible," said Danielle Walter. "Real-life application can’t be worked out on paper.” Still, the effort paid of well when the Wire Lickers and the Rube Harmonic Symphony were completely successful, and the other teams finished with minimal prompts from the designers and much support from the audience.
What is in store for the next year's Rube Goldberg event? Alternative projects such as the 2011 Battle Bots are promising, though the possiblities are not quite limitless. As Dr. Graff matter-of-factly explained, “We can no longer set off bombs.” His sage manner was belied by a mischievous smile as he continued: “Can’t set off fireworks anymore, can’t have flaming toasters hanging from the ceiling, can’t have tables used as dominoes..."
From the ingenuity demonstrated in this year's Rube Goldberg events, however, it is doubtful that these restrictions will keep LeTourneau students from thinking outside the box.
Written by Carly Robinson.
Footage by Ben Gerwig and Carly Robinson.