Sunday, May 1, 2011

In the News-Rube Goldberg Competition

Purdue Hosts Annual Rube Goldberg Competition

The University of Wisconsin-Stout were repeat winners at the 24th Annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest held March 26, 2011, at Purdue University. In a mere 135 steps, the Wisconsin team watered a plant in a model of creativity combined with "inefficiency and complexity" as required by the competition. In consolation for the home team, a Purdue University machine completed an unassisted run of 244 steps, surpassing Ferris State University's world record. You can read the full story and see a video of a machine re-staging the world's history in its goal of watering a plant, at the website of the Purdue University News Service.

The Rube Goldberg Machine Contest is named for the American cartoonist, sculptor, and author, Rube Goldberg (1883-1970). Born in California, Goldberg graduated from the University of California Berkeley with a degree in engineering. Despite his education, Goldberg went into cartooning and became famous for devising ridiculously complicated machines that accomplish extremely simple tasks. For that, his name passed into common usage so that even today, we talk about "Rube Goldberg devices." Goldberg also won a Pulitzer Prize for his editorial cartooning. Perhaps more significantly, the National Cartoonists Society (NCS) hands out its annual Reuben Award to "The Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year" in his honor. Goldberg designed the award himself, but the original was sculpted by Hoosier cartoonist Bill Crawford (1913-1982). Today, four decades after his death, Rube Goldberg has an official website. It's only fitting that he should. After all, isn't a computer just one more Rube Goldberg device?

The Reuben Award, the highest award given to a cartoonist by the National Cartoonists Society (NCS), designed by Rube Goldberg and sculpted by Bill Crawford of Hammond, Indiana.
Text copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

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