Rube Goldberg: Simple has never been harder

Raising a flag should be easy, unless the goal is to make it as difficult as possible

RUBE GOLDBERG MACHINES ARE one of a kind nonsense contraptions that require a good grasp of engineering concepts, so it is no surprise that the prospective engineers in this NRB event would make such a great apparatus for lifting the RPI flag.

A good way to begin freshmen year is getting to know the diversity of activities, clubs, and organizations on RPI’s campus. In an effort to introduce and
familiarize students, the
Navigating Rensselaer & Beyond program put together a Rube Goldberg design and construction activity. Five different categories were given, each representing a different category of clubs and organizations, including sports, media, multi-cultural, and performing arts. Teams were grouped based on students’ interests.

The objective of building the Rube Goldberg machine was defined by the participating students to designing and constructing a machine that could direct a marble into a cup which triggers an RPI flag to be raised into the air. Each team was assigned a section of the Rube Goldberg contraption. Some teams chose to work on providing enough momentum for the marble to fall into a cup, and others focused on building contraptions to trigger the RPI flag.

When asked why students selected the Rube Goldberg activity, one incoming freshman, Leif-Axel Berg ’18, explained that he wanted to better understand the mechanics of a machine. Berg, who is planning to major in Aeronautical Engineering, further explained that a continued experience with hands-on activities will, like this one, compliment his educational experience. Other students mentioned the importance of having fun while playing around with simple materials to create an interesting work of engineering. As teams were required to collaborate to put together a comprehensive contraption, the activity posed many challenges from design, to realization of the specific and overall objectives. From problem solving to teamwork dynamics, the activity provided the group of freshmen important lessons for college encounters and beyond.

It might seem rather silly from an outsider’s point of view to build such a complex machine to achieve a simple task, but this is RPI—a community of individuals who enjoy thinking unconventionally.