Washington University in St. Louis wins 2013 Rube Goldberg Machine Contest College Nationals

Fri, 04/12/2013 - 12:59pm

In a clever mockup of Rube Goldberg’s office, a complex contraption set off by a rolling ball bearing eventually drops a hammer on a nail

This year, a team from Washington University in St. Louis won the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest College Nationals. A video below captures the elaborate machine in action.
Named for the late cartoonist and inventor, the annual competition challenges college students to design a machine that uses the most complex processes to complete a simple task. Goldberg’s popular cartoon series depicted complex gadgets performing easy tasks in indirect, convoluted ways.
Devices in the competition must complete the task with a minimum of 20 steps.

The WUSTL students designed a contraption that hammers a nail with maximal inefficiency. Team members are: Amy Patterson and Harison Wiesman, sophomore and junior physics majors in Arts & Sciences, and Grace Kuo amd Alexa Lichtenstein, sophomore electrical engineering and senior mechanical engineering majors in the School of Engineering & Applied Science.

The competition was held March 30, 2013, at the Center of Science and Industry in Columbus, OH, with more than 1000 people in attendance. Seven collegiate teams competed:

  • UW Barron County
  • University of Texas/Austin
  • Penn State
  • Purdue University
  • University of Arizona
  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • Corning Community College 

Mo Rocca and CBS Sunday Morning were there to film the RGM's and talk with the teams. Kinetic artist Joseph Herscher was on hand as a judge.

For more information, visit

Video:  -- Winning Rube Goldberg contraption hammers a nail with maximal inefficiency. Not only did the contraption, constructed by a four-member team, take the top prize this year, it also won in the Best Single Step category. Two steps actually tied for the award: “Post-It Slinky” and “Pouring Coffee.” For those of you who couldn’t quite place it, the voice at the end is the Staple’s “Easy Button.”



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