COD Students Take Part in Rube Goldberg Competition at Purdue University

Rube Goldberg Competition Icon

By Mike McKissack

College of DuPage has the distinction of being the only community college to take part in the Purdue University annual Rube Goldberg competition.

An offshoot of the College’s Engineering and Technology Club, team member Herven Barham (Aurora), Tess Burke (Wheaton), Jon Chumas (Wheaton), John Deuschle (Lemont), Haytham Elbouhmidi (Naperville), Edward Pittsford (Wheaton), Zac Sima (Darien), Sebastian Stolarek (Carol Stream), Remzo Vega (Itasca), and Jack Wu (Naperville) traveled to Indiana last month to test their skills against competitors from prestigious universities.

“The best part of participating at the competition was competing with students from universities whose names are heard around the country,” said Vega, team president. “It's an honor, and an inspiration to compete with these teams that have already gone through many layers of development. Experiencing COD's team in that sort of status is very inspiring.”

The Rube Goldberg Competition at Purdue University was originally instituted in 1949 by Theta Tau and Triangle – the two engineering fraternities at Purdue. While the competition died out in 1955, it was revived 1983.Designed to get students to think of creative ways to accomplish a task using engineering and science, participating teams are given approximately five months to create a machine that can complete the given task in at least twenty steps. For this year’s competition, participants were instructed to build a machine that pours a bowl of cereal. COD’s machine, “Cereal Killer,” is constructed from a plywood frame and features 45 steps made up of a variety of found parts.

Vega, a resident of Itasca, started in the Engineering Pathways program at COD in fall 2016 and plans to go on to earn his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.

The process of creating the machine went through four phases of development: brainstorming and design, prototyping, final construction, and fine tuning and decoration, he said, adding that despite some initial ups and downs, work on the project took off like a rocket at the start of the spring semester.

“At that point, the competition was a month and a half away,” Vega said. “I knew if the machine was to be built, the frame had to be simplified and many planned steps would have to be cut out of the machine. To my relief, the parts of the machine were built and changed very quickly. Even then, the tuning phase I initially planned was completely out of the picture. Due to our tight schedule, there was frantic building and decorating all the way up to the day of the competition.”

While not totally satisfied with the machine’s performance at the competition, Vega said that there were several beneficial takeaways from the experience, including the importance of creating and sticking to a plan, encouraging teamwork, delegating tasks and staying focused under pressure.

“The fast approaching deadline of the project and the massive amount of work needed for it required me to very proactively allocate time and energy for homework and studying,” he said. “Still succeeding in classes while immersed in this project has given me confidence and the ability to have a strong work ethic.”

Attracted to mechanical engineering through combined interests in cars, math and physics, and unfolding interests in renewable energy technology, intelligent robots and reusable rockets, Vega said his experiences at COD have motivated him to look for leadership opportunities in his career.

“In my career, I want to be responsible for progress,” he said. “Rather than to have a part of a process that passes the product onto the next, I would like to lead the developments. I never imagined wanting to lead before I came to COD. Now, I can't picture myself without the desire to play a big role in anything I do.”

Vega said the College is a great choice for prospective students, particularly if they are unsure of their field of study or future career.

“I would recommend COD to anyone who is even a little indecisive about their career,” he said. “The faculty prioritize giving the students direction and the opportunity to practice their interests, and the College provides plenty of opportunities for leadership, networking and field- related experiences. In addition, the coursework is rigorous and ensures preparedness for transfer to four-year institutions.”

Click here for more information about the Engineering and Technology Club at College of DuPage.

Click here for more information about the Engineering program.

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