May 02, 2014 by Eric Birkhead
The College of Engineering attempted the world’s largest Rube Goldberg machine in an effort to break a Guinness World Record April 25. The project itself was undertaken by 43 engineering students who have worked on the concept and the machine itself for almost four months.
The event took place in the Bossone Research Enterprise Center and held numerous spectators ranging from students, citizens of Philadelphia and judges who oversaw the run-through of the machine. The event helped kick off the 2014 Philadelphia Science Festival.
Unfortunately, the machine ended up falling short, failing to meet the world record but successfully completed its run with human assistance.
The project of creating the largest Rube Goldberg machine was commandeered by freshmen engineering students in the Engineering Learning Community. The Guinness World Record of having the largest functional Rube Goldberg machine is currently held by Purdue University. Drexel’s team sought to break that record and created a project that will change the future of Drexel’s College of Engineering. It consisted of more than 350 movements and spanned half the length of a basketball court.
“It’s the first year that this was ever done and that alone is ground breaking,” academic adviser Rosie Kelly said. “They worked so hard, between classes and then working on this afterward, they all practically live together.”
The device was executed after all the preparations were made by the engineering team and all the speakers had presented at the event. After hitting the starting piece of the device, exclamations and shouts of disappointment arose after failing to continue in the first few minutes.
“We were all really nervous and running on few hours of sleep,” freshman engineering major Taryn Francischetti said after the event finished. “The part our group was responsible for ran smoothly so while overall it didn’t work, all the hard work we put into it paid off. We still felt really happy.”
The 43 students were broken up into separate groups all with their own part of the sequence of devices that were used to raise the flag.
“The fastest and best way we decided to do this was compartmentalize all of the parts into different groups,” Francischetti said on the day of the event. “We actually never had the whole thing together and ran it until early this morning.”
The machine, aptly named Rube Goldberg after the famous cartoonist who drew elaborate machines performing simple tasks, was designed using various physics methods and equations in order to create a chain reaction. The end goal results in a completion of a simple task, in the case of the ELC’s machine, raising a Philadelphia Science Festival flag.
“They’ve really risen to this with so much energy,” academic adviser Emily Bogunovich said. “They’ve rolled with the punches, taking on each problem as it came. Even after changing locations less than a week ago, they set up everything really fast.”
The location of the function was originally set to be in the Armory but was moved to Bossone on short notice.
The design of the machine itself was created by all the students within the ELC who all attend the same Engineering 101 to 103 classes. The group used a program called SketchUp, software that is used for various applications ranging from architecture and engineering to video games. After designs were made for each part of the machine, students began constructing the parts inside of the Armory.
“We really loved the entire thing,” Kerry Milligan, freshman engineering major and another member of the team, said. “We were all running on fumes and were getting on each other’s nerves toward the end. You know, classic group work. But it was still extremely satisfying.”
The Rube Goldberg project was a trailblazing effort from the College of Engineering, something that hasn’t been done in the entirety of Drexel’s history. While it did fail, the results yielded positive reviews from the administration and students both.
Drexel and the College of Engineering are in the process of deciding whether or not to continue attempting to break the record each year and make the project a team building exercise for future members of the ELC.