May 03, 2005

New Auburn Ingenuity: Wisconsin High School Team Wins National Rube Goldberg Applied Engineering Championship

New Auburn Rube Goldberg National Champions 2005.jpg

The guys in the picture above are the 2005 Rube Goldberg Contest Applied Engineering Champions of the Universe, hailing from tiny New Auburn High School (less than 100 students!) where I volunteer with Junior Achievement every year. They walked into the contest last week and took home the prize beating the best of the best from around the country with a TRULY original concept and the dedicated help of their teachers and advisors.

I've uploaded a video taken from my phone while there on Tuesday this week (3gp format, playable in RealPlayer with the latest software update) that you can watch if you're curious how the thing works - I must admit, it's really genius! Here's the press release:

    “Can of Corn” was the driving spirit behind the positive attitude that earned New Auburn High School’s Technology/Engineering (Shop) and Mathematics/Concepts of Engineering class 1st place in the prestigious state and national “Rube Goldberg Machine” engineering contest held Friday, April 29, 2005, at Wisconsin State Fair Park, West Allis, Wisconsin.

    Each year students across the nation are asked to complicate a simple task by the National Rube Goldberg Committee out of New York City and the Milwaukee Colleges of Engineering Partnerships. This years assignment from the national office in New York City: construct a machine that will remove old batteries from a two battery flashlight, install new batteries and turn on the flashlight in 20 or more steps.

    The machines, following in the spirit of drawings of Rube Goldberg, the late Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and amateur engineer, turned the floor of the Wisconsin State Fair Exposition Center into a jumble of pipes, strings, boards, pulleys, levers, and chutes, all held together by a variety of materials.

    At the end of the competition when the last lever tripped, the last toy car rolled, the last adapted mouse trap snapped, and the last battery tumbled into its flashlight, New Auburn High School was declared champion gadget maker and National Champions of “Applied Engineering.”

    The journey for the New Auburn-engineering students began last October. Instructors Jim Skuban and Tim Lambele developed an integrated Concepts of Engineering Program for the high school. One of the goals of the program was to win the national championship of the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest. New Auburn was the state champion in 2001. Students Brandon Baldry, Eric Gass, Tony Bischel, Garrett Stilley, Andy DeWilde, Merrit Super, Espen Grindhaug, and Max Mukhtarov began formulating the plan for their machine. The emphasis for the class was problem solving using engineering principles. Each student had to design and construct a five-function machine. Computer aided drafting fundamentals was stressed. Two teams then competed at the UW-Stout Leadership and Skills Competition in Team Problem Solving. The result was the gold medal in Team Problem Solving: Mechanisms.

    By this time student teacher Pat Rufledt was on board and oversaw the fabrication and construction of the project. The student team met and brainstormed ideas and then finalized the design of the machine. The machine went from design sheet to actual life beginning in the first week in March. Project and construction time included class time, after school, weekends, and spring break and totaled approximately 1,000 man-hours.

    The New Auburn machine had a boot that kicked a steel ball down a ramp that activated a plunger that knocked a stick into a mouse trap that released a wooden deer. A mousetrap was sprung pulling a pin that released tension on a bent fishing pole. And twenty steps later two old flashlight batteries were removed and replaced with two new batteries and the light was activated. The machine functioned perfectly.

    At the competition New Auburn was placed in a sectional with five other school for the preliminary round. The schools were Anitgo, Chilton, Racine J.I. Case, Reedsburg, and Stoughton. The tension was gut-wrenching as the judges methodically critiqued each machine. New Auburn emerged as sectional champion.

    Six winners emerged from the sectionals to advance to the final round to decide the state champion. Winners other than New Auburn were Cuba City, Athens, El Puente, Burlington, and Kiel. After another gut-wrenching session in front of the judges who were engineers from Harley-Davidson, Briggs & Stratton, and Rockwell International, the New Auburn team was awarded the state championship. Burlington was second place, and Cuba City was third.

    That sent the New Auburn Trojans and Burlington to the first round to determine the National Champion. New Auburn was against the Michigan state champs East Jordan High School, Whiteford Agriculture, and state champ Kadoka High of South Dakota. New Auburn emerged as the champ of the round and was pitted against two other schools for the title of National Champions. These schools were the Illinois state champ Morgan Park Academy and Charleviox High from Michigan.

    In contest finals just like the preliminary rounds, the machine must be set at the beginning and run perfectly without human intervention in the final step, and New Auburn’s machine functioned flawlessly for the sixth straight time. The judges awarded the title of National Champs to the New Auburn Concepts of Engineering Program.

    The eight students received a state permanent trophy, a state traveling cup, a national permanent trophy, and large national traveling trophy.

    When asked about the importance of the entire process of the project, New Auburn Technology/Engineering Instructor, Jim Skuban said, “It’s true engineering. The kids are problem solving and trouble-shooting constantly, all striving to achieve their goal. It is an outstanding team activity.” Skuban added, “What an honor for the kids, community, and region. The competition was a first-class operation. The Milwaukee Colleges of Engineering Partnerships (UW-Milwaukee and Marquette University) did and extraordinary job organizing the one-day event that cost in excess of $45,000.”

    Instructor, Pat Rufledt experienced the competition for the first time and commented, “It was a great team effort. The competition was intense. The kids kept their goals high and stayed motivated for the whole process.”

    The math instructor, Tim Lambele, stated, “I was proud of our kids, and without the support of our administration and school board, we would not be able to provide opportunities for out students like this.”

    Everything worked perfectly: “Can of Corn”.

We're all proud of you guys - keep up the good work and best wishes defending your title next year!

- Arik

Posted by Arik Johnson at May 3, 2005 02:18 PM