Earth Day-themed Rube Goldberg Machine Wins Technion Contest

April 25, 2017
Jennifer Frey

Some Earth Day events involve volunteer clean-ups, planting flower beds or unplugging your gadgets for a day. The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, however, challenged high school students worldwide to build an Earth Day-themed Rube Goldberg Machine—and three schools came through with flying colors (all shades of green, of course).

Katz Yeshiva H.S. Team 1, winners of the 2017 Technion Rube Goldberg Earth Day Challenge: (l to r) Mrs. Ellen Chait (Science Department Chair), Michal Amar, Ty Kay, Tani Loskove, Noah Bernten, Max Davis, Josh Bernten and Dr. Yosef Wolf

For the uninitiated, a Rube Goldberg Machine is a wacky contraption that is deliberately over-engineered to perform a simple task by setting off a comical chain reaction. Katz Yeshiva High School of South Florida (whose team of students ranged from 9th through 11th grades), placed first in this fun but difficult challenge, winning a one-year full scholarship to the Technion.

“When I saw our school’s name appear on the screen, I was overcome with emotions of comradery and school spirit. Tens of hours of hard work had finally paid off,” said student Tani Loskove. Teammate Ty Kay added: “As a high schooler pursuing dreams of becoming an engineer, Technion’s Rube Goldberg Earth Day Challenge was a great stepping stone for me. It was my first real engineering project.”

“It taught me values like teamwork, collaboration and communication, and as the only girl on the team,” said Michal Amar, “it showed me the importance, and sometime difficulties, of making your voice heard.” Other students on the team include: Noah and Joshua Bernten and Max Davis.

Working out of a student’s garage, the winning team concocted a nearly one-minute chain reaction in which Coca Cola bottles activated a toy car, sent a ball down a winding slide worthy of a Water Park, releasing liquid gallium to complete a circuit, which eventually set off a stream of water that spun a home-built Ferris wheel, knocked down popcorn boxes that activated a fan—illustrating recycling (plastic, metal and paper) and alternative energy sources (hydro, solar and wind power).

Some 24 high school teams around the world participated in the challenge. A team of judges led by Prof. Alon Wolf, Director of the Biorobotics and Biomechanics Lab at the Technion’s Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, selected the winners based both on their creative renditions of Earth Day themes and the complexity of the energy transfers from one action to the next. Le Hong Phong High School for the Gifted in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam placed second, while the International Bilingual School at Hsinchu-Science-Park in Taiwan came in third.

“It’s very exciting for us,” says Dr. Yosef Wolf, who heads up Katz Yeshiva’s STEM courses and started a robotics club at the school (no relation to Prof. Wolf). “It’s the first engineering contest that we have ever entered, and we came in first place! We’ve been growing our engineering opportunities recently and we have plans to further expand our STEM offerings next year. This result has further helped to increase our students’ excitement for the upcoming initiatives.”

Note: the contest is not over yet! May 1st is the deadline for the Most Popular Clip Contest. Winners will be announced May 3rd.

Click here to watch a video of the winning Earth Day entry. And don’t forget to “like” your favorite video by viewing them all here.

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is a major source of the innovation and brainpower that drives the Israeli economy, and a key to Israel’s renown as the world’s “Start-Up Nation.” Its three Nobel Prize winners exemplify academic excellence. Technion people, ideas and inventions make immeasurable contributions to the world including life-saving medicine, sustainable energy, computer science, water conservation and nanotechnology. The Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute is a vital component of Cornell NYC Tech, and a model for graduate applied science education that is expected to transform New York City’s economy.

American Technion Society (ATS) donors provide critical support for the Technion —more than $2 billion since its inception in 1940. Based in New York City, the ATS and its supporters across the U.S. provide funds for scholarships, fellowships, faculty recruitment and chairs, research, buildings, laboratories, classrooms and dormitories, and more.