The Rube Goldberg Machine Contests bring Goldberg’s cartoons to life as a way of helping students transcend traditional ways of looking at problems, taking them into the intuitive, chaotic realm of imagination. The resulting inventions are collections of bits and pieces, parts of now useless machines, cobbled together to achieve an innovative, imaginative, yet somehow logical contraption to meet the annual contest challenge.

For 55 years Goldberg’s Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoon drawings of complicated machines and gadgets satirized government policies, which he saw as excessive. His cartoons combined simple machines and common household items to create complex, wacky, and diabolically logical machines that accomplished mundane and trivial tasks. Rube Goldberg is the only proper name included in Webster’s Dictionary as an adjective, referring to “accomplishing by extremely complex,  roundabout means what seemingly could be done simply.”

Past Local Contest Winners:
2011 – Jews in Engineering (JEWSE)
2010 – Triangle Fraternity, http://innovations.coe.berkeley.edu/vol4-issue7-sept10/goldberg

Past Contest Challenges:
1987 Put Toothpaste on a Toothbrush
1988 Adhere a Stamp to a Letter
1989 Sharpen a Pencil
1990 Put the Lid on a Ball Jar
1991 Toast a Slice of Bread
1992 Unlock a Combination Padlock
1993 Screw a Light Bulb into a Socket
1994 Make Cup of Coffee
1995 Turn on a Radio
1996 Put Coins in a Bank
1997 Insert and Then Play a CD Disc
1998 To Shut Off An Alarm Clock
1999 To Set a Golf Tee and Tee Up a Golf Ball
2000 To Fill and Seal a Time Capsule with 20th Century Inventions
2001 To Select, Clean and Peel an Apple
2002 To Select, Raise and Wave a National Flag
2003 To Select, Crush and Recycle and Empty Soft Drink Can
2004 To Select, Mark and Cast an Election Ballot
2005 Change Batteries and Turn on a 2-battery Flashlight
2006 Shred 5 Sheets of Paper
2007 Squeeze the Juice from an Orange
2008 Assemble a Hamburger
2009 Replace an Incandescent Light Bulb with a More Energy Efficient Light Emitting Design
2010 Dispense Hand Sanitizer
2011 Water a Plant

The contest began as a rivalry between two Purdue engineering fraternities and was popular at Purdue in the 1940s and 1950s. It was revived in 1983. Since then, winners have appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Newton’s Apple,” “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” “Late Night With David Letterman,” NBC’s “Today,” CBS’s “This Morning,” CBS News, “Beyond 2000,” CNN, and ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

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