March 5, 2002

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A publication-quality photograph of the winning Chapter
of the Society of Professional Engineers team is available at


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.  The countdown is on for the Purdue "Mission to Mars"
team as it prepares for its new mission: defending the university's national
title on Saturday, April 6, in the 14th annual Theta Tau Fraternity's Rube
Goldberg Machine Contest.

The national contest will take place at 11 a.m. in the Cumberland Place
Exhibition Center, West Lafayette, near the Purdue campus. Teams from other
universities who won regional competitions will compete to see which machine
can secure, raise and wave the national flag in at least 20 steps.

The Purdue student chapter of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers won
last year's national contest with a machine that paid tribute to New York
City. In recent years the University of Texas at Austin, Hofstra University
in Hempstead, N.Y., Toledo University, University of Buffalo, Vanderbilt
University and others have competed for the national title. A complete list
of this year's participating universities is expected to be available later
this month.

The contest honors the late cartoonist Rube Goldberg, who specialized in
drawing whimsical, complicated machines to perform very simple tasks. The
student-built machines will be judged on completion of the task, creativity,
the number of steps involved and how well they embrace the Rube Goldberg
spirit. Points are deducted if students have to assist the machine once it
has started. Teams also will be judged and awarded points based on the
creative use of their materials and related themes.

Shawn S. Jordan, a senior majoring in computer engineering from Fort Wayne,
Ind., said he and his Purdue Society of Professional Engineers' teammates
drew inspiration from trips to science museums and watching the Learning
Channel to come up with their theme. Their "Mission to Mars" machine hoisted
the U.S. flag over a simulated mini-Martian landscape to the strains of
"Thus Spake Zarathustra" and Lenny Kravitz's rocker "Fly Away" to win the
local competition at Purdue on Saturday, Feb. 9.

The machine employed items such as a rocket-activated pump, a bicycle-crank
arm that launched an air rocket and a teeter-totter, which docked with an
International Space Station. Steps incorporating a water-screw Martian
aqueduct and a baking soda-and-vinegar volcano, a little Martian landrover
and yodeling astronaut triggered a sequence of events that accomplished the
mission to raise and wave the flag. The winning team dedicated more than 700
man-hours since September working on their entry and story-boarding the
theme and process, Jordan said.

In previous contests, students' machines have been required to select, clean
and peel an apple; make a cup of coffee; toast a piece of bread; put a stamp
on an envelope; and drop a penny into a piggy bank. Winners have appeared on
"Late Night With David Letterman, CBS' "This Morning," ABC's "Good Morning
America," NBC's "Today," "Newton's Apple" and CNN.

Writer: Grant Flora, (765) 494-2073, [EMAIL PROTECTED]

Source: Chris Piano, contest chairman, [EMAIL PROTECTED]

Related Web sites:

Theta Tau Fraternity Web:

Purdue News Service Rube Goldberg page:

Cumberland Place Exhibition Center:


Members of the Purdue Chapter of the Society of Professional Engineers team
celebrate their victory in the Theta Tau Rube Goldberg Machine Contest at
Purdue University Saturday, Feb. 9. Their winning machine, titled "Mission
to Mars," used 50 steps to secure, raise and wave a national flag. The team
will represent Purdue   and defend Purdue's title   in the national Rube
Goldberg contest in West Lafayette on April 6. (Purdue News Service file
photo by David Umberger)

A publication-quality photograph is available at

Jeanne Norberg, director
Purdue University News Service
1132 Engineering Admin. Bldg.
West Lafayette, IN 47907-1132
Office: (765) 494-2096;      Fax:  (765) 494-0401
Pager:  (765) 423-8662;      Cell: (765) 491-1460
Home:   (765) 449-4986

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