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  Exciting the Imagination

University of Toledo SPS Rube Goldberg Team Wins Second Place

By Trish Gallant, University of Toledo

SPS Rube Goldberg Team after winning local competition (left to right) Erin Hardy, Adam Gray, Nick Sperling, Tricia Gallant, JT Laverty, Dave Nero, Paul Sell, Noel Richardson, Josh Thomas.  

University of Toledo Chapter of the Society of Physics Students won second place at the National Rube Goldberg competition held at Purdue University on Saturday, April 1st. Purdue's team, the Society of Professional Engineers, won first place and a team from the University of Texas won third. Other universities present at the national competition were Texas A&M, and Ferris State.

The competition is based on Rube Goldberg's cartoons of machines that accomplished simple tasks in multiple complicated steps, much like the Milton Bradley game Mousetrap. This year's task was to cut five individual pieces of paper into strips using at least twenty steps. In addition, each machine was required to fit within a 5'x6'x5' volume.

Each competing team designed a unique machine with a theme. Our theme this year was “Monsters”. We designed our machine to look like a child's bedroom that had become infested with friendly monsters. We completed the task by dragging a monster shaped cart with three razor blades mounted underneath across five sheets of paper mounted on the "bed".

"Shredder" the monster that rode the cutting cart across the 5 pieces of paper.  

Construction began in January with meetings occurring twice a week for several hours at a time, and usually involving five people on average. All told, we spent over 500 man hours working. Our department provided us with an area under the large stadium style lecture hall to work on our machine, which we loving referred to as “The Bat Cave”. Our funding came from our SPS budget.

Prior to the national competition, we won first place at our local competition held in the Engineering department at the University of Toledo. We competed against Theta Tau chapters from both the University of Toledo and the University of Michigan. We were the only physicists at both the local and national levels of the competition; all other teams were comprised of engineers.

When we were at Purdue, we meet with the Purdue chapter of SPS. They generously gave us a place to stay Friday night and a tour of their department following the competition on Saturday.

This was our second time competing. Last year we also won the local competition, but did not place in nationals.

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