The Rube Goldberg Competition challenges teams of college (and high school) students to over-engineer a contraption that will perform a simple task – think, Mousetrap. Saturday, engineering students flocked to Purdue University for the national contest, ready and excited to … dispense some hand sanitizer.
What I love about this competition isn’t just that Rube Goldberg’s genius gets a real-D treatment, it’s that these students apply real engineering techniques to manifest something silly. You mean … science can be … fun? Yes. I went to last year’s competition and had a great time. Not only are the machines themed (Mario, Jurassic Park, Dr. Seuss), but the students are usually in costume to match. It’s like cosplay meets a Ready Made competition. (More on Techland: Another Ridiculously Viral Video From OK Go)
This year, teams had to design a machine that, through a series of no less than 20 nonsensical steps, would dispense hand sanitizer into a hand. (Very fitting for the Year of the Swine Flu.) In the end, the University of Wisconsin-Stout took home the trophy with their Egyptian-themed contraption Valley of the Kings, an ode to King Tut. Second place went to last year’s champ St. Olaf College – the first school without an engineering program to claim the top spot – with their medieval-themed machine. (Props to the guy who showed up in the court jester outfit.) Third went to Penn State, who went with an always-classic Indiana Jones motif. Congrats, you guys.