March 3: Annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Twenty Three teams of high school students from Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin competed on March 3rd to design the most elaborate and hilarious (but also functional) ways to open an umbrella at the annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest at Minnesota State University, Mankato. The regional event lets high school students display their creativity, humor and ingenuity while learning about engineering.

The teams participating compete for a regional title and to qualify for the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest on Saturday, April 23 at the Waukesha Country Technical College in Pewaukee, Wis., where teams will compete to become the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest Division II champion.

The results of this year’s competition are as follows:
1st Place**:  Beach Bums (Chatfield HS – Chatfield, MN)
2nd Place**:  Time Warp (Christ’s Household of Faith School – St. Paul, MN)
3rd Place:  Sharknado (Christ’s Household of Faith School – St. Paul, MN)
4th Place:  Bad Luck Brians (Christ’s Household of Faith School – St. Paul, MN)
5th Place:  New Prague Rube-E-Os (New Prague HS – New Prague, MN)
**Advance to Nationals

Other fun miscellaneous awards:

  • Best Use of Duct Tape / Most Duct Tape Used:  Rained Out – Southwest Minnesota Christian HS – Edgerton, MN
  • Team that Traveled the Farthest:  Team Elk Mound – Elk Mound HS – Elk Mound, WI
  • Best Drama:  Team Poppins – NRHEG HS – New Richland, MN
  • Most Optimistic:  Beach Bums – Chatfield HS – Chatfield, MN
  • Student’s Choice Award (given to team that best captured the “spirit of Rube Goldberg” and chosen by MSU engineering students) – Time Warp – Christ’s Household of Faith School, St. Paul, MN)

Designed to encourage teamwork and out-of-the-box problem solving for students of all ages, the STEM- (science, technology, engineering and math) and STEAM- (science, technology, engineering, art and math) friendly Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, according to its website, tackles the most mundane tasks and asks participants to create their own overly elaborate and hilariously conceived wacky contraptions that accomplish that task in honor of the competition’s founding father. The first National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest was launched in 1988.

Rube Goldberg (1883-1970) was an engineer, sculptor, author and Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist who depicted overly complex machines performing simple tasks. The machines that he drew often were impossible to build and operate, but were entertaining because they defied implementation.

To view the KEYC TV news story on the competition: H.S. Students Compete for Most Unique Way to Open Umbrellas Without Hands.


Rube Goldberg Machine Contest – 2014

Southland High School Zips It Up for First and Second Place

Twenty-two teams build complex machines and compete to complete simple task: Zip A Zipper


Zip a zipper.  The task was simple; the machines were not.  A Rube Goldberg machine, according to Webster’s New World Dictionary, is “a comically involved, complicated invention, laboriously contrived to perform a simple operation.”

On March 7, 2014, over 150 students representing 12 high schools from Minnesota and Iowa gathered at the Centennial Student Union at Minnesota State Mankato to compete in the regional Rube Goldberg Machine Contest.

Teams of three or more full-time high school students were formed to build a machine with everyday items in a whimsical way to create a series of chain-reaction steps to accomplish the simple task.  The goal is to encourage critical thinking and problem solving in a non-traditional learning environment while having fun in the process.  Machines specifications include a minimum of twenty steps and a single run time under two minutes.  Students employ engineering and physics along with a bit of humor and story-telling.  Each team is led by an advisor.

During judging, teams are ensured points for the clear, concise, creative, and charismatic verbal representation of their machines.  Teams are also judged on general impressions of their machines, such as how well their theme or story is integrated into the machine, how well the machine completes the task in a manner more complex than necessary, and how well the machine uses recognizable everyday items in a creative, unique, and funny way.  Team chemistry is important and easily earns points for teams who communicate and work well together.  And, to mimic the Rube Goldberg cartoons, the funnier the machine, the better!

The top two teams will advance to the national competition in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, on April 5, 2014.

Congratulations to all of the winners!  Good luck to Southland High School at Rube Nationals!


1st Place:  “Winter Wake-Up” – Southland High School, Adams, MN  Team Video

First Place:  Southland High School Winter Wake-Up


2nd Place:  “Happy Campers” – Southland High School, Adams, MN • Team Video | Competition Video

2nd Place:  Southland High School Happy Campers


3rd Place:  “The Leftovers” – Mankato West High School, Mankato, MN • Competition Video

3rd Place:  Mankato West


4th Place:  “Rube’s Rubes” – Christ’s Household of Faith School, St. Paul, MN • Team Video | Competition Video

4th Place:  Christ's Household of Faith


5th Place:  “Goldberg Golfers & the German” – NRHEG High School, New Richland, MN • Competition Video

5th Place:  Goldberg Golfers


Spirit of Rube (Students’ Choice Award):  “Eagles” – Southwest Minnesota Christian HS, Edgerton, MN

Students' Choice Award:  Southwest Minnesota Christian HS


Team that Traveled the Farthest:  Carlton High School, Carlton, MN

Carlton HS


Best (and Prettiest) Use of Duct Tape:  “Fun in the Jungle” – Northwood-Kensett HS, Northwood, IA

Northwood-Kensett HS


Most Cohesive Use of Theme and Costuming:  “Varsity Farms” – Kenyon-Wanamingo HS, Kenyon, MN

Kenyon-Wanamingo HS