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Ferris Team Heading to National Rube Goldberg Competition at Purdue

Rube Goldberg MachineA College of Engineering Technology team from Ferris State University will make its ninth appearance in the national finals of the Rube Goldberg Machine Competition on Saturday, March 31 at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.

The university has a history of success in the Rube Goldberg competition, which rewards creativity over simplicity. A Ferris team set the Guinness World Record in the 2007 “Toy Factory” competition by using 229 steps with a machine that squeezed juice from an orange into a pitcher. The team beat its personal record in 2010 when it traveled to Japan with an updated version of the 2007 machine. The group broke the record with 230 steps.

For this year’s task, the six-member team created a machine that takes several steps to blow up a balloon and pop it. Its theme is “Back to the Future.”

“We are still working on steps, and I do not have a final count yet,” said Bryan Williams, a senior majoring in Mechanical Engineering Technology from Lupton, Mich. “The theme this year is the future; we decided it would be an interesting theme because technology today is moving forward so fast, and Rube is kind of the opposite of that with everything being over-complicated. It seemed like a cool idea to blend the two together.”

The competition honors Rube Goldberg, the late Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist known for taking a simple task and making it extraordinarily complicated.

“This is such a great experience for students,” said Ferris Rube Goldberg team advisor Thomas Hollen, who also is coordinator for the university’s Energy Systems Engineering and Mechanical Engineering Technology programs. He serves as chairperson of the RGMC regional and national high school events. “It’s an opportunity to compete with your mind. Any time I see students use their minds to create, I love it.”

Ferris landed an automatic berth in the national competition. It was the lone collegiate team to compete in the Feb. 18 high school and college regionals held at Ferris’ Wink Arena.

This year’s competition marks the fourth time Williams has participated on Ferris’ Rube Goldberg team.

“I always look forward to nationals,” he said. “I enjoy seeing the other teams’ creations, and that helps inspire me for my own machine.”

However, Williams’ favorite part of the Rube Goldberg competition is watching younger students in the high school division compete.

“When I see the high school machines, I imagine them going to college and getting an engineering degree and getting a job on the front line of new technology innovation,” he said. “This competition teaches kids to think outside of the box and helps them get interested in designing and building things.”

Kimberly High School in Kimberly, Wisc., defeated 12 other teams to win the national finals held March 17 at the university’s Wink Arena.

The Ferris Rube Goldberg team also includes Ben Peltier, of Cadillac, Mich.; Tyler Koroleski of Hudsonville, Mich.; Jennifer Kempel of West Branch, Mich.; and Adam Matz of Cedar Springs, Mich., all Mechanical Engineering Technology majors, and Jory Smith of Hemlock, Mich., who is studying Biology/Pre-Medicine.