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  • Purdue Takes Rube Goldberg Title
Apr 2006
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., April 3, 2006 -- The Purdue Society of Professional Engineers defended its national title in inefficiency and complexity with a machine that shreds five sheets of paper in 215 steps, the winning entry in the 18th National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest.

Ryan Harold, left, and Drew Wischer make last-minute adjustments to the Purdue Society of Professional Engineers' entry in the National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest. (Purdue News Service photo/Dave Umberger)
The Purdue team also received the People's Choice Award in the event, which about 1200 attended Saturday at the Purdue Armory on the university's West Lafayette campus. A team from the University of Toledo came in second and the University of Texas at Austin placed third.

Inspired by cartoonist Rube Goldberg, the annual competition challenges college students nationwide to design a machine that uses the most complicated process to complete a simple task -- put a stamp on an envelope, screw in a light bulb, make a cup of coffee -- in 20 or more steps. This year's task was to create a machine that employed principles of engineering and physics to individually cut or shred five sheets of paper in at least 20 steps.

The winning team's theme was "The Rube Goldberg Machine Ate My Homework." En route to accomplishing its task, the contraption relied on an alarm clock, a tank of water, a hammer, marbles and a Rube Goldberg-style player piano that played the "Hail, Purdue!" fight song. In addition to receiving a trophy and bragging rights for a year, the winning team was invited to appear April 14 on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" show.

Machines entered in the competition were allowed three attempts to successfully complete the task twice. Points were deducted for manually assisting a machine during its run. The competition is sponsored by the Purdue University campus chapter of Theta Tau, a professional engineering fraternity. This was the fourth consecutive win for a Purdue team.

The University of Toledo's Society of Physicists said it spent about 500 hours building its machine, which used a "monster" under a child's bed to complete the paper-cutting task.

In previous contests, entries were required to raise, secure and wave an American flag; select, clean and peel an apple; make a cup of coffee; toast a piece of bread; put a stamp on an envelope; and drop a penny into a piggy bank. Winners have appeared on "The Late Show with David Letterman," CBS's "This Morning," ABC's "Good Morning America," NBC's "Today," "Newton's Apple" and CNN.

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