Theta Tau hosted the 2009 Rube Goldberg Machine Contest on Wednesday, February 18, 2009 in the Taylor Room of the ETC Building and a large crowd was in attendance to see the four teams compete with their elaborate, complex light bulb-changing contraptions.
Contest and Contestants
The Rube Goldberg Machine Contest (RGMC) is in its 13th year of success in the Cockrell School of Engineering. The teams participating in the 2009 competition are as follows: Theta Tau Professional Engineering Fraternity, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Society of Women Engineers and an independent, Tyler Luce, a Mechanical Engineering junior from Hondo, Texas.
Civil Engineering senior Michele Mohon began the event at 6 p.m. after the four teams set up their machinery and made last-minute adjustments. The first team to compete was the ASME team. Team members include: Brandon Boyle, Zoheb Nooruni, Jonathon Helfand, Xuejian Tom Yu, Todd Bilderback, Alex Oddo, Marc McClendon, Austin Taliaferro and Travis Hampton. Their machine ran successfully on the first try.
The second team to run was the Theta Tau team, using a Six Flags Over Theta Tau theme was made up of the following students: Ben Martinez, Oam Yamajinda, Ryan Farrell and Chris Hunt. Their machine worked successfully on the second try.
The third team to compete was the SWE team, which had only one member, Katie Maass, in attendance. Her design partner Charlotte Whitehead (Civil) wasn't able to be there. Their machine had to have an assist each time, as a small train kept getting derailed as it was going down a metal ramp. With the assist, the machine worked.
The fourth competitor was the one-man independent competitor, Tyler Luce, who had the largest and most elaborate machine entered in the competition, under the theme Jurassic Park. He made the project by working on it a little each weekend beginning in September. He used mainly recycled materials that had been dumped at a construction site. After a consult from the National Rube Goldberg Chair at Purdue University over some a few design issues, the judges confirmed Tyler Luce and his Jurassic Park themed machine to be the 2009 winner. Tyer Luce will go on to represent the Cockrell School of Engineering in the national contest held at Purdue University in April.
The results were:
- Tyler Luce, Jurassic Park theme
- Theta Tau, Six Flags Over Theta Tau theme
- ASME, Conveniently Placed Masses as a Source of Alternative Energy
- Society of Women Engineers, Keep America Beautiful theme
Jurassic Park Rube Goldberg Machine Step List
- The nitrogen release valve is opened
- The nitrogen flows through the pipe into the DNA research center and deflates the balloon
- The excess nitrogen gas flows down the vent tube and out the top of the volcano
- The balloon lets down the ramp which drops the "egg" into the chute
- The catch bucket at the bottom of the chute is lowered by the weight of the "egg"
- The egg holder is lifted by the catch bucket
- The second egg rolls down the widening ramp
- The widening ramp drops the egg down the drainage pipe
- The egg then sets off the mouse trap 1
- The Mouse trap 1 pulls the rope connected to the tire stop from under the RV's wheel
- The RV rolls down the hill and off the cliff
- The falling RV rotates lever 1
- The Lever 1 then rolls the round weight off its rest
- The round weight pulls the rope
- The rope turns the lake drain valve releasing the waterfall
- The waterfall turns the waterwheel
- The waterwheel winds up the rope connected to the gate switch
- The gate switch turns and sets off mouse trap 2
- The Mouse trap 2 pulls out the gate release pin
- The weight of Jurassic Jeep opens the gate
- The Jurassic Jeep drives down the hill knocking the "boulder" into the sinkhole
- The Jurassic Jeep also trips the electric box switch disabling power to the gate lights and perimeter lights
- The "boulder" rolls through the sinkhole and down the high wire ramp
- The "boulder" knocks out the perimeter light support
- The perimeter light falls on lever 2
- The Lever 2 rotates lifting up the pipe
- The pipe pushes the "coconut" off the tube and on to the ramp
- The coconut rolls down the ramp sending adventure man down the zip line
- Adventure man travels down the zip line setting off mouse trap 3
- Mouse trap 3 pulls up on a rope connected to the power grid switch turning on the LED panel and LED lights in the main building
- Simultaneously, the coconut falls down the wire chute into catch bucket 2
- Catch bucket 2 pulls on twine that passes through pulley 1 which dislodges the support rod
- The unsupported weight then falls setting off mouse trap 4
- Mouse trap 4 pulls out the swinging gate pin
- The swinging gate relapses the wheels down the ramp
- he wheels fall off into the counter weight catch
- The counter weight catch pulls on a rope that passes through pulleys 2, 3 and 4 and lifts the helicopter
- The helicopter picks up the landing pad revealing the LED panel
- The wheels are stopped by the steel supports
The department thanks the judges for volunteering their time to the project. The judges were Kelly McQuery, Academic Advisor in Chemical Engineering, Ben Hodges, Associate Professor from Civil Engineering, Billy Wood, Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering, and a representative from Lockheed Martin, Christopher Garland, F-35 Flutter Analysis, STOVL Variant Lead.
Rube Goldberg machine
A Rube Goldberg machine is an apparatus which performs a simple task in an overly-complex way. Such machines are named for American engineer and cartoonist Rube Goldberg in honor of his cartoon series which depicted such machines. He stated that his machines were "a symbol of man's capacity for exerting maximum effort to achieve minimal results."
The task for this year's contest was to replace an incandescent lightbulb with an LED bulb in 20 steps or more. The competition hopes to finally answer the question, "How many engineers does it take to change a light bulb?" More details, including contest rules may be found on Theta Tau's website.
The university has a good reputation in the contest. It has placed quite high every year, including a national win in 2002.