MENOMONIE, Wis. — Elk Mound High School dominated the competition Monday, March 20, at the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest regional hosted by University of Wisconsin-Stout.
The school’s machine, named Santa’s Workshop, took first place and earned two other trophies to lead five teams in the technology and engineering challenge at the Memorial Student Center.
Elk Mound earned 96.6 points from a panel of judges, who included UW-Stout Chancellor Bob Meyer, besting Plum City, 82.1 points, and Siren, 72.7. Also competing were Spooner and Rice Lake.
Elk Mound also won the Creative Spark Award and the Teamwork Award while Spooner won the Spirit of Rube Goldberg Award.
With the victory, Elk Mound is eligible to compete in the national high school contest Saturday, March 25, in Columbus, Ohio. In 2015 the team took third place nationally.
The competition challenges students to create a machine that turns a simple procedure into something complicated. The event is named after an early 20th century engineer and cartoonist whose work spoofed modern machinery.
Machines must have a minimum of 20 steps and be a standard size. They are judged on creativity and functionality.
This year’s national challenge is to apply an adhesive bandage. Elk Mound’s machine did just that while stretching out the process to the maximum 75 steps. Student Tanner Stockdill, a freshman, played the role of injury-prone Ralph the Elf and had the bandage applied to the back of his hand by a drill that was turning a roll of duct tape, which held the bandage.
The machine performed perfectly during the first of two competition runs and was restarted once during the second run. Some of the processes and objects it uses include a bicycle wheel, various balls, chutes and ramps, a peppermint stick and chocolate bar, a teeter totter, a belt sander that starts a rolling saw blade in motion, a marble that bounces off two bongo drums and into a box, a steam shovel and a toy train.
“We were fairly confident we would win. Our goal was to get to the 75-step limit and make it work perfectly,” said Elk Mound team member Caleb Young, a junior.
Lucas Audorff, technology education teacher at Elk Mound and the team’s adviser, said the nine team members worked approximately 1,000 hours — mostly outside of class — over two academic quarters to create the machine. He noted that teams also must write and tell a story about their machine so they learn language arts in addition to the sciences.
“What I like most is the teamwork and the collaborative effort. Kids are making friendships and learn how to respect each other,” he said, noting that students from freshmen to seniors are on the team. Audorff is a 1998 UW-Stout graduate.
The event was hosted by the UW-Stout Technology Education Engineering Collegiate Association. About 12 TEECA members majoring either in technology education or in science and technology education were involved. Program adviser and instructor Barb Bauer helped coordinate the vent.
“We’re here to get the kids thinking about engineering and the sciences, to get their creativity flowing,” said Zack Olsen, of Bonduel, a junior, one of the TEECA members. “The high school students put in a phenomenal effort.”
TEECA members also gave the high school students a quick tour of campus before the competition, including stops in the construction lab and the Discovery Center’s Fab Lab.