Windsor·Video

75-metre Rube Goldberg machine in Windsor features books, a guitar and a golden cat

About 26 students had two weeks to piece together a 75 metre long machine using only found items that would cause a bouquet of balloons to float.

It took two weeks and couple of nudges for students to finish the final exam

Students at the University of Windsor turned the Windsor Armouries building into a piece of movable art with a large Rube Goldberg machine. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

About 26 students had two weeks to piece together a machine using only found items that would cause a bouquet of balloons to float 75-metres away. 

It's called a Rube Goldberg machine — in this case, it's also known as University of Windsor professor Rod Strickland's final exam for his first year sculpture class. 

"They have to use their design skills, work with found materials and transfer kinetic energy from one to the next," said Strickland. 

"A lot of patience, a lot of teamwork is happening here."

Put some funk in it

Each group is responsible for a three metre section of the machine and can use any kind of contraption to get that kinetic energy from one project to the next. 

Some used swinging water bottles, others used slingshots and one found a way to incorporate a record player and guitar. 

The practical lessons of a Rude Goldberg machine

4 years ago
Duration 1:04
University of Windsor students completed their final exam with a pretty wild contraption. 1:04

"The record player spins and there's screw coming out of it to create a gear system," said Jeremy Burke, a second year visual arts and drama student at the University of Windsor.

That system pulls a string attached to a pen which lifts up to strike a ramp that hits the next person's portion of the project. 

This record player was part of Jeremy Burke's portion of the machine that pulled a string which caused marbles to drop on a guitar and play a few notes. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Burke threw a little funk into his piece of the machine: when the pen lifts up, two marbles drop on the guitar. 

"It's kinda comedic," said Burke, who said the practical use of this project for him was working with motion in visual arts using everyday objects. 

Brought to you by Grease

Burke's piece of the machine doesn't kick into gear until Christa Bressan's portion starts.

"It was very stressful honestly," said Bressan, a first year student doing a double major in communication, media and film and visual arts.

It's worked a few times, so we know it will work — as long as we get the right amount,- Maria Jose, student

Bressan spent an entire weekend going through potential models before deciding on a 3 metre portion that starts with a pulley system, ends with with a stack of items toppling over a box to put Burke's piece in motion, and hinges on what she calls the most important part of her piece: a Grease CD.

This Grease CD helped continue Christa Bressan's three metre portion of the machine. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Her big take away from this project?

"Time management, really," said Bresssan. "You have to make time to do this and manage your time well."

Creating the 'magic moment'

Strickland said the machine was working in fine form during a dress rehearsal on Monday night but the big show on Wednesday needed a few gentle pushes to keep the machine running. 

First year visual arts students Jegan Y Jobe and Maria Jose spent part of the night re-tying rubber bands to find the right tension to swing a set of marbles with enough power to knock swinging paint tubes into a blue ball that would then slide down a cardboard ramp to the next project. 

"It's worked a few times, so we know it will work — as long as we get the right amount," said Jose. 

Jobe wasn't worried about failing. 

"Every time that I fail, coming back to the beginning is like me trying something new," said Jobe, adding that the project was more exciting that frustrating."

Professor Rod Strickland said the goal of the project is to get students thinking about creative ways to solve problems. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Strickland said that's what the course is all about. 

"We played with chance," he told the students after the machine's final attempt on Wednesday night. 

"We did a really great job and I want to thank everybody for their effort."

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