Rube Goldberg machine puts engineering students in the record books


Rube Goldberg machines are always a fan favorite around here. They truly embody the concept of over-engineering, and are an entertaining departure from what we normally cover on Hackaday.

Back in February, engineering students from two on-campus professional associations at Purdue University teamed up to construct a world record-setting Rube Goldberg machine. Their entry in the Purdue Regional Rube Goldberg Machine Contest not only won them the regional title, but also potentially put them in the books as creating the most complex device of its nature.

Their contraption was dubbed “The Time Machine” and acts out events in our planet’s history. It starts with the big bang, moving through various other time periods, including the stone age, ancient Egypt, and the medieval era. It also makes several stops in more recent times, including World War II and the Cold War, before self-destructing at the Apocalypse.

All told, the machine incorporates 244 steps to water a plant, which is 14 more than the previous record holder. Continue reading to see a video that highlights some of the machine’s more interesting features, and be sure to check out these Rube Goldberg machines we’ve covered in the past.

[via BoingBoing]

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This hack really pushes our buttons

Yep, if you’ve got a button that needs pushing, this is one way to do it. [Travis] combined an old alarm clock with a car door-lock actuator and minimal logic circuitry to make this happen. When the alarm time is reached, the adjustable actuator comes down to press whichever button has been placed under it. In the video after the break he’s using it to schedule the start time for his Roomba, make his coffee, heat his pizza, or pointlessly press the clock’s own snooze button (classic). We think this is just begging to be used with a Rube-goldberg setup, perhaps to topple to dominos that other robot took the time to set up. Oh wait… that shows up in the video too. Fantastic!

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Home Brew Coffee Machine

There are already a lot of different ways to brew up a decent coffee at home, from the humble saucepan to the elegant vacuum flask. In an office environment the choice of coffee-making technique can have a major impact on workplace harmony—how can people be expected to work happily when the kitchen is filthy with grounds and the coffee is always stale? “Someone have mercy,” [Christian Finger] lamented, “and boil a pot of fresh.”

In the end he took extreme measures, building a machine that grinds whole beans, measures out a dose, brews a cup and self-cleans. He used all sorts of odds and ends to put the thing together, detailed in his long and hilarious build log (english translation—and check out the dude’s sweet ride). Refer to his shockwave animation for a summary of the intended operation.

The end result is an extremely impressive Goldbergian contraption—download the video from the build log. It is pretty noisy and probably energy- and water-hungry, but that wouldn’t stop us from using it every day, if given the chance. Hell, this here could form a major part of your next breakfast machine.

We’re sure that there is further potential in this, because to get the really freshest possible cup of coffee you’d want to roast the coffee beans just before grinding them. Then you’d be well on your way towards something else entirely: a delicious breakfast machine.

Gum ball maze updated… now with robots!

In what is surely becoming an ever-growing Rube Goldberg machine, [Dan] updated his gum ball dispenser to include a robot arm. We looked in on this human lab-rat experiment that rewards successful maze navigation with bubble-gum just about a year ago. As you can seen in the video after the break he’s added several new features to delight users. The original had a maze actuated by an accelerometer and that remains the same. But when the device fires up, the wooden ball is moved to the start of the maze by a Lynxmotion robotic arm. That arm is mounted on rails so it can also move to deliver the gum ball after a successful run. There’s also an anti-jamming feature that shakes the gum ball dispenser to ensure you don’t come up empty.

Whether playing chess or being controlled by a mouse the Lynxmotion has been quite popular lately. [Dan’s] solution uses a vacuum pump to grab onto the spheres (both wooden and gum), similar to the method used with the CNC pick and place from a while back.

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A pair of Rube Goldberg builds

Here’s a couple of videos of Rube Goldberg machines that [Austin] built. The one above was completed in 2008 as a commercial contest entry for something-or-other. After the break you can see his build from 2007 which was just for fun. Both are quite nice additions to our collection of the complicated devices. We especially like the use of a sub-woofer to move a ping-pong ball and a vibrating cell phone for some wireless integration.

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Great ball contraption

The idea of the Great Ball Contraption is to take modules from many builders and combine them into one large machine. The modules need to find some way of moving LEGO soccer balls and basketballs from an input point to an exit are that passes them onto the next module. Some of them sort the balls, but in the end the eight-and-a-half-minute video above shows the orbs going around and around. That’s just fine with us, it’s no secret that we love machines that are overly complicated and may be completely useless.

By popular demand: the OK Go Rube Goldberg machine

We’ve received many tips regarding the OK Go video that features a Rube Goldberg machine. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out their video after the break. This is the rare instance when a YouTube video features an audio track with the full endorsement of the artists that recorded it.

Our first thought when watching this? Who are the lucky dogs who got paid to design and build that contraption? You don’t have to scratch your head over that one, the Band has posted a four-part video series talking about the machine and documenting the design meetings and build process (those videos also after the break). The engineer artists at Syyn Labs were tapped to pull off the meticulous mayhem and we think they did a stellar job. There’s been a lot of press about the work, but our favorite was over at Wired because it details the process, not the end product.

The best part about Rube Goldberg Machines is that asking “why?” is the wrong questions. The sheer joy of the build makes taking over a house or over-complicating the fulfillment of hunger worth it.

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