AUSTIN, Texas—Victory lights will brighten the Tower at The University of Texas at Austin Saturday night (April 20) paying tribute to the creative minds of a team of engineering students whose patriotic 63-step contraption won this year’s national Rube Goldberg Machine Contest.
At dusk, the Tower lights will begin to glow white at the top with orange and a white number one on the sides of the building.
The university’s winning entry in the April 6 contest at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., was a machine that paid tribute to the heroes of Sept. 11, 2001.
Competing with regional winners from across the country, The University of Texas at Austin bested the three other national finalists in a contest to build the wackiest, most inefficient method to raise, secure and wave an American flag using at least 20 steps and within a time limit.
The University of Texas at Austin Theta Tau engineering fraternity, Psi Beta chapter team, devised a machine that required 63 steps to complete the patriotic duty. Their chain reaction began with a fire alarm that released a toy dog that triggered a miniature fireman sliding down a pole to set the mechanics in motion.
The machine used five major energy transfers that launched mechanisms, released a catapult, unlatched levers, pulled pins, tripped photo transistors, cut strings and lifted weights until a pulley released a pendulum that ultimately picked up an American flag. Incorporated in the machine were patriotic and fire-rescue related representations, including a fire hydrant, a fire escape, a Statue of Liberty lamp and a replica of the Alamo.
“Our goal at first was to be competitive in the contest,” said Kevin Smith of Houston, the Texas team captain. “Then it became a way to pay tribute to fire and rescue and military personnel.”
In addition to Smith, members of the team included Brody Knudtsen, Timon Chiang, Chris Nance and Salvador Santolucito III. The students, who received $500 and a trophy, became the fifth team in seven years from The University of Texas at Austin to earn the award.
The Austin Fire Department donated red T-shirts with the department’s logo to add to the patriotic acknowledgment of their colleagues in New York City.