Newswise — The Purdue Society of Professional Engineers defended their national title in complexity and inefficiency during Saturday's (April 1) 18th National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest with a machine that used 215 steps to shred five sheets of paper.

In addition to claiming first place, the Purdue team also received the People's Choice Award in the event, which took place before about 1,200 people in the Purdue Armory on the university's West Lafayette campus. Other competing teams represented the University of Toledo, University of Texas-Austin, Texas A&M University and Ferris State University.

The annual competition rewards creatively and inefficiency in completing a simple task. 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 a minimum of 20 steps.

"This is the eighth year I've been involved in the Rube Goldberg contest, and the competition is played at a much higher level than when I began," said Shawn Jordan, captain of the winning team and a graduate student from Fort Wayne, Ind., majoring in computer and electrical engineering. "The machines are better designed and use many more steps. I am just amazed at how the quality of the machines has increased."

The team's theme was "The Rube Goldberg Machine Ate My Homework." In route to accomplishing the contest's task, the contraption used an alarm clock, tank of water, hammer, marbles and a "Rube Goldberg-style player piano that played the "Hail, Purdue!" fight song.

"It was a nail-biter because we had a problem during the second round due to a glitch in the machine - that's the first time that happened," said Robert Mann, assistant leader and a junior in religious studies from Fort Wayne, Ind. "But in the last round, the machine did exactly what it was supposed to do."

Machines in the competition had three tries to successfully complete the task twice. Teams lost points for manually assisting a machine during its run. Judges awarded points based on the creative use of materials and related themes.

A team from the University of Toledo came in second and the University of Texas at Austin placed third.

"This is only our second year competing in the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, and we didn't place at all last year, so we're very excited to be in second place," said Tricia Gallant, a graduate student from the University of Toledo. "Our team is the Society of Physicists, and we spent about 500 hours building our machine."

The machine, called "Monster," was designed as a child's bedroom inhabited by monsters. A monster under the child's bed completed the task of cutting the paper.

In addition to receiving a trophy and bragging rights for a year, the winning team has been invited to appear April 14 on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" show.

This was the fourth consecutive year that a Purdue team has won the national competition. The Purdue Society of Professional Engineers also won in 2005, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers won in 2004, and the Theta Tau fraternity and Phi Sigma Ro sorority won in 2003.

In addition to Jordan and Mann, other winning team members include Jon Blair, a sophomore in nuclear engineering from Stuart, Fla.; John Borsdorf, a junior in mechanical engineering from Stockton, Ill.; Nathan Flatt, a junior in mechanical engineering from Martinsville, Ind.; Ryan Harold, a senior in mechanical engineering from Wheeling, Ill.; Arthur Janneck, a junior in aviation technology from Martinsville, Ind.; Jeff Schindler, a sophomore in mechanical engineering from Evansville, Ind.; Matt Schwartz, a sophomore in mechanical engineering from Mooresville, N.C.; and Drew Wischer, a junior in aviation technology from Cedarburg, Wis.

The contest honors the late cartoonist Rube Goldberg, who specialized in drawing whimsical, complicated machines to perform simple tasks. The student-built machines are judged on completion of the task, creativity, the number of steps involved and how well they embrace the Rube Goldberg spirit. Teams also are judged on the creative use of materials and related themes.

The national Rube Goldberg Machine Contest was organized by the Phi Chapter of Theta Tau Fraternity at Purdue. Representatives from contest sponsors Lockheed Martin Corp, Siemens Automotive, General Electric Co., Siemens Building Technologies, BAE Systems, Kimberly-Clark Corp. and Motorola Inc. judged the machines. Other sponsors were Fellowes Inc., Purdue's College of Engineering and Purdue's School of Technology.

In previous contests, students' machines have been 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' "This Morning," ABC's "Good Morning America," NBC's "Today," "Newton's Apple" and CNN.

Rube Goldberg and the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest are the trademark and copyright of Rube Goldberg Inc.


Teammates Drew Wischer, from left, and Shawn Jordan celebrate a successful run of their machine in Saturday's (April 1) National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest. Their team, the Purdue Society of Professional Engineers, claimed first place and the People's Choice Award over four other university teams from around the country in the annual event. (Purdue News Service photo/Dave Umberger)

A publication-quality photo is available at