On the evening of Oct. 17, the multi-use room at Technology High School was filled with both stress and laughter, as over 80 freshman students frantically worked to refine their Rube Goldberg machines in front of judges, parents and staff. Not only is this Tech High’s 20th anniversary of their now infamous Rube Goldberg night, it is the first in their highly anticipated brand-new campus.
“It just gives the students a lot more room to display their work and to show off all the things that they’ve done and learned,” said Dawn Mawhinney, Principal of Technology High School. “It’s light, it’s bright. Now with our new space, they’ve been able to work in the shops. So this is truly an unveiling.”
For years Rube Goldberg night took place in the dark hallways of their old campus located in a building on Sonoma State University, which was crowded and had limited space for workshops, machine shops and other equipment. With the new, large shops and equipment, the students could really take advantage of all the amenities of their new campus. Many of the students’ Rube Goldberg machines - machines intentionally designed to perform a simple task in an indirect and overcomplicated fashion – reflected the use of these new resources.
“There were a variety of machine ideas the kids could choose from,” said Greg Weaver, Integrated Science and Engineering teacher and co-organizer of the event. “For example, putting coins in a bank, breaking an egg, or putting milk on cereal. They were encouraged to have a theme and somehow relate it to whatever their machine did.”
The Rube Goldberg event, named after an early 20th century cartoonist, sculptor, author, engineer and inventor from San Francisco, is meant to showcase what all the ninth graders at the school learn in regard to various principals of physics. Goldberg’s series of cartoons depicting complicated gadgets that perform simple tasks in elaborate, complex ways have inspired many physics students to learn complicated fundamentals in a fun, engaging way. The students worked in teams of three or four and learned not only physics, but how to work with others, share ideas, and collaborate.
“It was pretty hard to do, it was pretty complicated,” said Sienna Barrett, whose team worked on a toothpaste machine that squirted toothpaste on a toothbrush. “But it was nice to do it as a team with people you didn’t know.”
The students were judged on various criteria including showing a clear purpose utilizing at least five simple machines; correctly and completely describing the physics principals in the device; identifying and explaining at least four energy transfers; the actual workability of the device that reflected the initial design; and the overall presentation and communication skills. To that end, students could be heard explaining the theories behind kinetic and potential energy, physics principals such as energy, force, distance, and acceleration, and demonstrating their knowledge of various simple machines such as levers, pulleys, wedges, wheels and axles.
“The process was really fun to try to figure things out and tweaking it,” said Danielle Kosoff, whose Egg Cracker machine along with teammates Bianca Reed, Matthew Davis and Kobe Brown won first prize at the end of the evening among cheers and applause. “Just seeing it work and all come together was fun, especially as a team. We could assign different things for others to do and not have to worry about one person doing everything. It was really helpful getting different ideas too.”