Machine Design

Backtalk 6/23/2011

Time Machine shatters record

Students from Purdue University shattered the Guinness World Record for the largest Rube Goldberg machine ever built. The Time Machine is a 244-step juggernaut that destroys the planet several times over before restoring hope by watering and growing a flower.

The machine traces world history from the Big Bang to an Apocalypse triggered by the Four Horsemen: Bob Barker, Dirty Harry, Darth Vader, and Woody, the “Toy Story” cowboy. On its travels, the world is humorously destroyed by a meteor, an ice age, the Great Flood, world war, and alien invasion. The machine documents monumental human endeavors such as erecting the pyramids and flying to the moon, a well as modern “accomplishments” such as the LP record and Microsoft Windows.

“If Bruce Willis, Will Smith, and Charlton Heston joined forces to build a Rube Goldberg machine, this is what it might look like,” says Zach Umperovitch, captain of the team that has won three national championships and set two world records in the past seven years. “Of course, those guys wouldn’t be as crazy as we are to invest 3,500 hours to accomplish a task a toddler can do in mere seconds.”

Goldberg’s granddaughter, Jennifer George, recently inherited the responsibility of keeping alive the wry, whimsical spirit of her Pulitzer Prize-winning grandfather. His whacky cartoon machines, designed to accomplish everyday tasks in convoluted but ingenious ways, remain seared in pop culture lexicon. “The Purdue contraption spoke to his humor the most,” said George. “You have a smile on your face from the moment you walk in here.”

© 2011 Penton Media, Inc.

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