Argonne National Laboratory

Lake Park High School wins Argonne’s 2017 Rube Goldberg Machine Challenge

By Justin H.S. BreauxMarch 15, 2017

With the goal of creating a complex machine to apply a Band-Aid, Lake Park High School bested six other teams to win the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory 21st annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest.

Inspired by video games, the Lake Park team employed concepts from engineering and design to successfully transfer energy 75 times through classic scenes from games like Pac Man, Donkey Kong and Super Mario Brothers.

“That end number wasn’t the goal,” said James Kryger, a physics teacher at Lake Park High School. “They wanted to have all these different video games and in the end, 75 became the necessary number of steps for them create the vision they had laid out for themselves.”

Months ahead of the competition, student teams meet in small groups after school or on weekends to discuss machine design and construction. Once the work begins, however, it becomes clear that this isn’t the type of competition where you can look in the back of a book to find the answer.

In this competition, student teams are continuously challenged to create their own solutions that may or may not lead them to their goal.

“They’re used to sitting down and cranking through problems where you always get a correct solution,” said Kryger. “This competition really helps them to begin to see how complex the world really is by seeking to solve something that doesn’t have a right answer.”

By winning Argonne's contest, the Lake Park team advances to the National High School Rube Goldberg Machine Contest Finals held at the Center of Science and Industry in Columbus, Ohio later this month.

Second place in the competition went to Hoffman Estates High School, and third place went to Benet Academy.

Other participating teams included Glenbard South High School, Luther North College Prep, Maine South High School and New Trier High School.

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

Argonne's Division of Communications and Public Affairs sponsored the February 24th event in collaboration with Chicago Children’s Museum and the National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest. The event is licensed by Rube Goldberg, Inc.

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.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit the Office of Science website.