Engineering Students Test Their Machine-Building Creativity

RALEIGH, N.C. (December 2, 2023) – Sounds of balloons popping filled the Conference Center at Southern Wake Campus as some 200 Wake Tech engineering students put their design skills to the test during the innovative Rube Goldberg machine-building competition.

Named for the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and engineer, the competition featured 44 teams of students in the Associate in Engineering (AE) program who spent months designing the intricate contraptions that perform the simple task of popping a balloon in a not-so-simple way. The number of teams was twice that of last spring's competition.

The creations had to be developed with at least five distinct steps and had to rely on the principles of physics – gravity, force, mechanics, magnetism, sound waves, light and electricity. They also had to incorporate safety features, keep within certain dimensions and get creative with their design. Students documented the design process and wrote up reports as part of the assignment.

Top honors went to the following teams:

  • First Place – Acme (Samuel Church, Chase Hardy, Meshach Ramnath and Jonathan Stappenbeck)
  • Second Place – Rubesaurus (Caitlin Caraway, Sam Robeson, Mikila Sick and Abigail Sokolowski)
  • Third Place – Fantastic Four (Abbas Aurangabadwala, Ethan Downie, Mohsin Aurangabadwala and Dev Patel)
  • Fourth Place – Rogue (Nicholas Jakel, Jiabin Chen, William Dixon and Sean Biller)
  • Fifth Place – Comrades (Noah Torcasso, Elle Mclure, Brandon Cirucci and Sergey Fedorov)

Each winning team took home a cash prize.

Dr. Hessam Ghassemi, assistant professor and AE program director, said he was proud of the excellent work the students produced.

"The Rube Goldberg competition is a pivotal event for students, fostering creativity and problem solving," he said. "It challenges them to apply engineering principles in unconventional ways, promoting teamwork and out-of-the-box thinking, which are essential skills for future innovators."

Student Abigal Close breathed a sigh of relief when her team's balloon popped. "We started working on this in August, so it was a lot of work, but it was also a lot of fun," she said. "I really enjoyed collaborating with our team, and it helped me have a better understanding of the construction of simple machines."

Fifteen local professionals and industry partners judged the projects.

The Rube Goldberg competition is the final project for students in the Intro to Engineering course. It allows them to apply STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) concepts to real-world projects and develop team-building skills in a fun and creative way. Currently, more than 1,300 students are pursuing the AE degree with plans to transfer to four-year institutions for further study.

The biannual end-of-semester event was co-sponsored by Student Activities.

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January 2024

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