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CA News - Hammering a nail with a machine

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Chesapeake Academy eighth-graders Harley Haydon (left) and Libby Nashwinter release a trigger that activates a ball on an incline plane as the initial phase of their class’ Rube Goldberg Machine.

Chesapeake Academy eighth-graders are honoring Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, sculptor and author Rube Goldberg by designing and creating a complex machine as part of their physical science study. Goldberg, a trained engineer, was famous for his “inventions” which satirized new technology and gadgets of the day. His name became synonymous with any complex program or system that’s end result is the production of a simple task.

Science teacher Paul McAllister entered the eighth-grade class into the National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest and instructed his students to build their machine using all six of the simple machines with special attention to the transfer of energy. The task for the 2013 Rube Goldberg Machine Contest is to hammer a nail. The guidelines for the contest suggest teams to work backwards from the final task to the beginning, where the machine is initially set into motion.

The eighth-grade’s machine, while still in production, currently includes a pulley, lever, wedge, and inclined plane. Their finished machine must include 10 steps to accomplish the task—hammering a nail—and its run time cannot exceed 2 minutes.

“A huge challenge of the project is getting multiple components to work together to complete the task while attempting to meet the other judging criteria, such as how well a theme is carried into the machine, how funny it is, or how much variety in mechanisms, energy forms, and materials exist in the steps,” explained McAllister.

The eighth-graders’ Rube Goldberg machine currently begins with the back and forth movement of a saw, that releases a wedge, that starts a ball rolling down an inclined plane to a weighted pulley system. From there, the intention is to activate a second trigger that starts a second ball rolling on a perpendicular inclined plane to, what will eventually be, a hammer poised on a rotating axis.

One of the biggest challenges the class faces is working as a team. “We don’t always agree on every idea,” noted eighth-grader Tyler Dunaway.

Included in the contest requirements is the student creation of a diagram and written description of the steps.

posted 12.05.2012

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