Students unveil clever machines in Rube Goldberg competition

The 30th Annual Rube Goldberg Contest has a winner! Friday afternoon 10 schools from across Wisconsin and Illinois came to Waukesha County Technical College to compete for top honors.

Benton, Berlin, Glenbard South, Kimberly, Milwaukee Lutheran, Pius XI, St. Catherine's, Waukaukee, Waupaca, and Wauwatosa High School District call competed in several rounds of judging. 

Contest judges were looking at every machine's complexity, functionality, technical merits. 

Kimberly High School's 10 person team has built a machine that pours cereal in 74 steps. Kimberly High did win the national Annual Rube Goldberg contest last year, but team leader Christopher Thompson says they're still not overconfident. 

 "Some things that never go wrong, can go wrong. So you can't underestimate people. Overestimate people," said Thompson. 

These crazy contraptions are also judged on themes and whimsicality. One of the more dramatic machines was Pius XI's Cereal Killer machine that had a Clue or Murder Mystery drama to it. St. Catherine's High School took a lighter approach to their theme being a Dr. Seusse Breakfast, including many characters from the author's more popular books.

Since both Pius XI and Kimberly High have each won national titles in the last two years, they're being contenders. But, no team seemed too worried about that.   

Kimberly Wollenberg, team leader for St. Catherine's High School, says confidence is key. Their Dr. Seuss machine takes 46 steps to pour cereal.   

"They probably are the best competition, but it's always fun to work as a team and do the best we can. Like our teacher says do the best we can. Do the best and let it rest," said Wollenberg. 

Kimberly and Pius XI High school both have machines that take over 70 steps to pour the cereal. But that doesn't guarantee a win. The goal is to have at least 20 steps and have the device pour the cereal with the fewest number of hiccups. 

Owen Turner is Pius XI's team leader and he says it's anybody's game when it comes to these contraptions. 

"Wooooh! I've been doing it for three years and it's still rough every time," Turner said. 

Watching the structures carefully, judges like Sara Feuling agree, they're all in awe. 

"It was a very good run. It worked flawlessly. [Kimberly High School] had one time at the end there. But, I think they're going to be able to correct it," said Feuling. 

But mistakes are why nonprofit STEM Forward says it hosts this annual competition. Executive Director Rich Merkel says it's a working science. 

"These kids get an opportunity to be makers, to be tickers, to be junior engineers. So it's fantastic," said Merkel. 

The winners for the 30th Annual Rube Goldberg Contest are as follows: 1st Place – Waunakee High School, $750 prize and advance to finals,  2nd Place – St. Catherine’s High School – Racine, $500 prize, and is 3rd Place – Kimberly High School, $250 prize. The Waunakee High School team will move on to compete in the regional competition at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago on April 21. 

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