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Creative scrounging key to Goldberg device

ed and kevinSo what can you make out of:

  • An 8x4 sheet of plywood retrieved from a dumpster....
  • Empty pop cans collected from dorm buddies ...
  • An empty vitamin pill bottle ...
  • Two eyes from a girlfriend's Halloween costume ...
  • A discarded reel of 20 mm film found while "urban exploring," and . . .
  • A variety of other items gathered from "weird, random places"?

A Rube Goldberg device, of course!

Three Hajim School freshmen – Edward Ruppel, biomedical engineering (at left in photo), and Kevin Bonko (at right in photo) and Kelly Chang of mechanical engineering – walked away with the top prize (C-pen digital highlighters) after combining all of the above in a dorm room for a Hajim e-social competition held earlier this school year.

They pulled it off on one week's notice. The only rules for the competition stated that the contraption had to be able to flip a page in a book, pop a balloon, pour a cup of water, pick something up, and turn on a light. Their project started out as a "breaking bad kind of thing," morphed into a clearly human figure that looks like he or she is doing chemistry, and then "became like a medical thing and just evolved randomly." You get the idea.

"We'd work on it from 12 p.m. every day until 3 or 4 in the morning," Ruppel explained. "I'd be sitting there instead of doing my homework, just tinkering."

Mind you, they didn't get any course credit for this. But then, these are engineering students, who "love building things," Bonko said. "It really wasn't work. It was fun. We made popcorn, we'd joke around and just tinker with stuff."

The best part, one gathers, was "sourcing the parts." Take that sheet of plywood. Ruppel and one of his friends spotted it in a dumpster even before they knew about the competition. "'Hey, we can use that,' we said. We walked it across campus, over the bridge behind Sue B (Susan B. Anthony dorm), snaked it up through the stairwells, and put it behind my bed," Ruppel explained.

Talk about being prepared! In fact, Ruppel and Bonko stressed, "the whole point was to pre-prepare." Well, maybe not to the extent of collecting plywood out of a dumpster weeks in advance, but at least having everything assembled before the event.

Sounds like good advice for any students eying next year's competition.