Technology
November 20, 2017
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Not from a Textbook ~ Learning Physics in a Hands-On Way

  • Ethan Tran, Michael Hadiputra, Dante Benedetti, Jose Alvarez, Ma Lak Smith, Idan Kashani, Kalib Loop, Louis Cuneo-Bordessa, Joaquin Williams, Ella Berger, Vilmania Monterroso, Challis Knaak,Singmeuangthong and Alexandra Zigomalas.

By: Stephanie Derammelaere
November 3, 2017

On the evening of Oct. 24, the halls of Technology High School echoed with sounds of marbles rolling, levers clicking and pulleys squeaking as the crowded halls filled with about 80 freshmen and their proud parents and friends, watching the students demonstrate their Rube Goldberg machines for the annual Rube Goldberg Showcase.

Rube Goldberg, originally from San Francisco, was an early 20th century cartoonist, sculptor, author, engineer and inventor. His series of cartoons depicting complicated gadgets that perform simple tasks in elaborate, complex ways made him famous. Since then, science teachers across the country have relied on students making “Rube Goldberg machines” to teach various laws of physics in a fun and engaging way.

The annual Rube Goldberg Showcase at Technology High School is the culmination of a month-long project that the freshman class work on, individually or in groups. Students are responsible for designing and creating their machines, putting into practice what they learned about various physics concepts such as force, acceleration, mass, and simple machines, in addition to problem solving, the scientific method and teamwork. 

Greg Weaver, who teaches freshman science and engineering, robotics and senior integrated science, and is one of the organizers of the event, likes to see how the students work hard and perform under pressure. 

“After only a couple months into school the students have to do this public presentation of their work and a lot of kids freak out!” quips Weaver. 

Students had a couple of hours to display and demonstrate their Rube Goldberg machines, which had goals ranging from making toast and eggs, to taking pictures. Throughout that time, judges were also busy evaluating each project.

“The projects are judged by 15-20 parent judges, many of whom work as engineers, or work in computer engineering,” says Dawn Mawhinney, Principal of Tech High. “Each project is judged about three times. I love that this is a community event and the kids get to showcase what they created. It is a positive and supportive experience.”

A group of four whose project’s end goal was to play “Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles utilized a water drop system, marbles, weights, levers and pulleys to complete an electrical circuit using a banana that eventually hooked into a computer queued to play the song – and others on request. 

“It’s awesome to see the different personalities of everyone come through and how that changes the end result,” said Henry Kullberg, team member on the Yellow Submarine project.

“Everyone has good ideas which leads to a better end product,” agreed Sarah Cornett, another Yellow Submarine project team member.

The evening closed with the top three winners being announced by Scott McKeon, Technology High School science teacher and another organizer of the event, amid cheers and clapping of proud parents and student peers. First place went to Ethan Tran, Dante Benedetti, Michael Hadiputra and Jose Alvarez for their project they called “The Lean, Green, Peanut Smashing Machine,” whose end goal was to crack open a peanut shell. Using pulleys, incline planes, levers, and using gravity to their advantage, the four students exhibited their knowledge of physics in a creative, entertaining way.

“It was fun to build and seeing it all work was really beautiful!” said Michael Hadiputra. 

“My favorite part was the creative aspect of building it,” said Dante Benedetti. “I enjoy creating machines and making them work.”