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Craig High team wins national Rube Goldberg contest

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Catherine W. Idzerda
March 17, 2013

— All it takes to win at the Rube Goldberg Contest is teamwork, over-the-top-creativity, and a machine—or rather, several machines—that work perfectly.

On Saturday, the Craig High School Engineering Club had it all. They won the national competition in Pewaukee, defeating 14 other teams from around the U.S.

It’s the seventh time the club has competed in the competition. It is the first time the squad went to nationals.

Along with winning the overall award, they also earned the respect of their fellow competitors who awarded them the “peer award.”

What set this year’s team apart?

“It was the whole package,” said Jeff Leider, Craig High School engineering and physics “It was a well-thought out design, it was a leadership thing and the kids came up with a great script.”

The script was “very comical.”

“One student read the script while another one acted it out,” Leider said.

This was one of the first years that he was able “step away a little bit more” from the kids.

“This year, the leaders of the group really popped out on their own,” Leider said. “They just worked things out together.”

Students were so engaged in the process that Leider had to “kick them out of his room” every day after school.

They also wanted to come in on weekends.

“This is the first year that Mr. Leider’s team went to the nationals. It’s pretty exciting,” team member Lee Ping Ong told The Gazette last week.

The contest is inspired by the cartoons of Rube Goldberg, who drew machines that performed simple tasks in unnecessarily complicated and funny ways.

This year’s contest challenged students to create a machine that hammers a nail using a minimum of 20 steps.

The Craig Engineering Club built its machine around a story they invented of a young Goldberg at a carnival. Club members showed their machine to a Gazette reporter and photographer last week.

One gizmo after another—each invented by the Craig team—does its job until it activates a wooden man who repeatedly lifts a hammer and pounds the nail.

The machine features a spring-loaded cannon, a Barbie-style doll spinning on a wheel as a dart gun fires at her and a rabbit that disappears into a magician’s hat.

The rabbit trick was perhaps the most difficult engineering challenge, said team member Miranda Mishleau.

Different members tried their hand at it, but co-captain Keegan Leckey made it work, Mishleau said.

Leider said the competition involves the use of simple machines—levers, pulleys, axles and the like—but the most important lessons go beyond engineering.

“These all are kids that like to tinker, but it’s the teamwork and leadership that shows up in some of these kids,” Leider said.

Leider said some of the team’s leaders were quiet and shy when they started with the engineering club as ninth and 10th graders, but they have blossomed as juniors or seniors.

“It’s kind of neat to see the growth,” Leider said.

Mishleau, who joined the club this year and who is considering studying environmental engineering, said she has learned how collaborating with others can lead to innovative ideas.

Judges put a high premium on originality, and that means creativity, which probably was a major factor in the team’s win at regional competition March 1. That victory qualified them for the national competition.

Mishleau said she expected the national competition to be tougher. Some of the teams make their machines as part of a class, she said, while Craig’s team is a club.

But club members put in countless hours on their project starting last fall and were fine-tuning it even after their victory in regional competition March 1.

Drew Overley is the other co-captain. Other club members are Lucas Canik, Ryan Cook, Lorin Cox, Eric DeCremer, Gavin Dillavou, Carl Harmanson, Connor Jensen, Morgan Kemp, Brodie Kjornes, Ben Kubiak, Troy Lipker, Connor McMahon, Nate Mertz, AJ Miller, Miranda Mishleau, Lee Ping Ong, Wey Ling Ong, Lance Phinney, Levi Richarson and Peter Zillmer, Keegan Leckey.


 
 

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