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Posts Tagged → Rube Goldberg machine

Rube Goldberg: Watering A Plant The Hard Way

In this week’s print Newscripts column, I wrote about the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest and the 2011 national winning team from the University of Wisconsin, Stout. Teams were asked this year to build a contraption that could water a plant in at least 20 steps in less than two minutes.

If you’re unfamiliar with the competition or Rube Goldberg himself, perhaps you’ll remember “Mouse Trap,” the game now from Milton Bradley in which kids have to set up an elaborate board of slides and levers to trap players’ plastic mice underneath a small cage. This is a Rube Goldberg-style contraption. The board game is now easier to put together, but when I was younger, it involved rubber bands and a lot of work. My friends and I would generally get so tuckered out from putting the thing together that by the time it was ready, we no longer felt like playing the game.

UW Stout’s winning device, in the video you just saw, took 135 steps to water the faux venus flytrap you see at the end. This is the second year in a row that the team has won. Being a winner at the national contest, however, doesn’t just involve fitting in the greatest number of steps, says Andrew Behnke, UW Stout’s team captain. The theme and finesse of how everything comes together is a big factor in judging. As you can see in the video, the winning device this year tells the story of a haunted Louisiana estate where the dead come to life when the gate is cranked open. It has a mansion, chapel, graveyard, train depot—all the things a traditional estate might have had. Continue reading →