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Elk Mound wipes out competition to win Rube Goldberg contest

MENOMONIE — Elk Mound High School erased the competition Tuesday, March 10, during the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest regional at University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Elk Mound’s Rube March Madness machine scored 365½ points, nearly 100 more than the runner-up, in the annual technology and engineering challenge at the Memorial Student Center.

 Second place went to Plum City with 268¼ points followed by Bayfield with 219 and Chatfield, Minn., with 206.

With the victory, Elk Mound is eligible to compete in the national high school contest Saturday, April 18, at Waukesha County Technical College in Pewaukee.

The Rube Goldberg competition challenges students to create a machine that turns a simple procedure into something complicated. Machines must have a minimum of 20 steps and be a standard size. This year’s national challenge is to erase a chalkboard or whiteboard.

Elk Mound’s machine, playing off March Madness, has a basketball theme. It has 68 continuous steps, which include a basketball being shot into a hoop, and ends with a spring-loaded eraser sliding over a whiteboard as a buzzer sounds. Team members dressed as play-by-play announcers and referees.

Elk Mound team members include Dylan Black, Nick Hollister, McKenna McVey, Korbyn Knipfer, Corey Hagberg, Ben Lambele, TJ Lambele, Adam Altman, Dustin Gruenhagen, and Shawn Flynn.

Lucas Audorff, technology education teacher at Elk Mound and the team’s adviser, said 14 students from freshmen to seniors put in close to 1,000 hours of work on the machine, much of it after school and on weekends.

“It empowers the kids and helps keep them on track,” he said. “They put a lot of work into it. It’s very rewarding.”

Audorff, a 1998 UW-Stout graduate, said the project started in a problem-solving and design class but required skills in many areas, such as math, science, forensics and language arts.

Students had to write and tell a story to accompany their machine, in this case a basketball coach’s dream about a big game.

Elk Mound also won the Best Story Award and Most Spirited Award.

The Elk Mound machine performed perfectly during one of its competition runs and was restarted once during the other run.

“We put a lot of time into the project and were very proud of how it worked out in the competition,” TJ Lambele said, speaking on behalf of the team. “We were a little nervous with five judges watching us but it all worked out.We hope it works when we go to the national meet next month,” he added.

Chatfield won the People’s Choice Award and Plum City the Laugh Barometer Award.

Machines are judged on creativity and functionality. The event is named after an early 20th century engineer and cartoonist whose work spoofed modern machinery.

New Auburn High School, the 2014 UW-Stout regional champion and national high school champion, didn’t compete this year.

The event was hosted by the UW-Stout Technology Education Engineering Collegiate Association.