Argonne National Laboratory

Argonne sponsors 2013 Rube Goldberg Contest for local high schoolers

By Jared SagoffFebruary 18, 2013

LEMONT, Ill. – It'll sound like a construction site at the 18th annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest when Chicago-area high schools compete to see who built the wackiest machines to hammer a nail into a board in 20 or more steps.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, the contest kicks off Monday, March 11 at 10:30 a.m. at Argonne.

Schools registered for this year’s contest are:

  • Chicago Christian High School, Palos Heights
  • Hoffman Estates High School, Hoffman Estates
  • Joliet Central High School, Joliet (two teams)
  • Maine Township High School South, Park Ridge (two teams)
  • Wilmington High School, Wilmington
  • York Community High School, Elmhurst

The winning team will receive a traveling trophy to display until the 2014 contest and a tour of Argonne, which will include a visit to the Advanced Photon Source and lunch with Argonne scientists. The first-place team also will have the opportunity to demonstrate its winning machine at Argonne on the day of the tour.

In addition, each team member and the team’s faculty advisor will receive an Argonne National Laboratory Rube Goldberg Machine laptop backpack and an Argonne Rube Goldberg Machine Contest T-shirt. The first-place team will also advance to the National Rube Goldberg High School competition on Saturday, March 16, at Waukesha County Technical College in Pewaukee, Wis.

Second-place team members and their faculty advisor will receive Argonne National Laboratory Rube Goldberg Machine laptop backpacks and Argonne Rube Goldberg Machine Contest T-shirts.

Third-place team members and their faculty advisor will receive Argonne National Laboratory Rube Goldberg Machine Contest T-shirts.

A trophy will also be awarded to the team that wins the People’s Choice Award, to be chosen by popular vote of those attending the contest.

Rube Goldberg machine contests are inspired by Reuben Lucius Goldberg, whose cartoons combined simple household items into complex devices to perform trivial tasks. The machines combine the principles of physics and engineering, using common objects such as marbles, mousetraps, stuffed animals, electric mixers, vacuum cleaners, rubber tubes, bicycle parts and anything else that happens to be on hand.  But the ultimate goal of the Argonne-sponsored contest is to give students hands-on engineering experience and to encourage them to make science and engineering part of their future academic and professional careers.

“Designing and building a Rube Goldberg machine has a lot in common with modern research and development,” says David Baurac, one of the founders of the Argonne competition. “It’s creative problem solving, and it’s a team activity. The teachers I talk to tell me that the contest is not about winning, it’s about the experience of participating.”

Information about the Argonne Rube Goldberg Machine Contest for High Schools is available online.

Argonne's Division of Communications, Education and Public Affairs sponsors the March 11 event in collaboration with Chicago Children’s Museum and the National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest. The event is licensed by Rube Goldberg, Inc.

“Rube Goldberg” is a registered trademark and copyright of Rube Goldberg, Inc., which can be reached, at (203) 227-0818, by e-mail at or via their website.

Chicago Children’s Museum’s mission is to create a community where play and learning connect. For more information about Chicago Children’s Museum, call (312) 527-1000 or visit their website.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.