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Homestead Science Club ready to face final Rube Goldberg Machine Contest frontier

Friday, March 15, 2013 - 7:29 am

This is the first year for the Science Club at Homestead High School, and the experiment has worked out well.

Club members will compete Saturday in the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest national high school finals at Waukesha County Technical College in Pewaukee, Wis.

They earned the right to compete for the national title by winning first place March 2 at a regional contest at the COSI science museum in Columbus, Ohio.

The Rube Goldberg competition started in 1949 at Purdue University in West Lafayette. It was inspired by the creations of Rube Goldberg, a nationally syndicated and Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper cartoonist who specialized in drawing highly complicated and comical machines to do a simple task.

This year's Rube Goldberg competition required teams to create machines that use at least 20 steps and less than 2 minutes to hammer a nail.

The Homestead group started meeting in October to plan their project, deciding on an outer space theme, said sophomore Brooke Adams, the team captain.

Next, each team member wrote out on separate cards three different steps the machine could take on its way to accomplishing the task, Adams and team member Natalie Hawken said. They then arranged the cards to develop an order of steps for designing the machine.

They then divided into groups, each of which worked on a different section of the machine, Adams said.

They planned the overall design, however, so the steps in each section flow easily into starting the steps of the next section of the machine, Hawken said.

The 30 steps used in their machine include starting the machine by pressing the “Space” key on a computer keyboard, a water balloon popping, simulating the Big Bang Theory, an alien spaceship beaming up cows to abduct them and a hammer that looks like a rocket ship swinging toward the lunar surface to drive a nail into the moon.

During national judging, 55 points will be based on the operation of the machine, Adams and Hawken said. Another 45 points will be determined by aspects such as the creative use of household materials in the machine (something the original Rube Goldberg emphasized); an introductory speech about the project; a written description of the machine's steps; and how well the team works together.

Mark Lenfestey, team sponsor and Homestead Science Department chair, said they plan to drive up to the national competition and return the same day.

Team members going to nationals are Anna Tatara, Jeremy Tatara, Weilin Liao, Weishan Liao, Brooke Adams, Parker Angelos, Jason Ivanovic, Dan Clark, Ari Papadakis, Natalie Hawken, Stephen Mattson, Missy Marks and Tyler Neuman.

Team members have been practicing with their machine and plan to be ready to face this final space frontier.