2010 Rube Goldberg Competition at UT Austin

Links: www.Rube-Goldberg.com | UT Theta Tau | UT write-up | my links to past years

The task for 2010 is to create a machine which will
"dispense an appropriate amount of hand sanitizer onto a hand."
The judges shown left to right were:
  • Billy Wood, Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering,
  • Kelly McQuery, Academic Advisor in Chemical Engineering, and
  • Ben Hodges, Associate Professor from Civil Engineering.


The American Society of Mechanical Engineers knows what the public is looking for in a Rube Goldberg machine and, as in years past, did not disappoint. This year it was a B-Western movie complete with guns, a cattle stampede, a falling water tower, logs in a river, a small gauge railroad, a hanging of 3 desparados, indians, a hot air baloon, and ending with an Archimedes screw that delivers the hand sanitizer.

Theta Tau

Chris Hunt headed up the technical aspects of this machine. Of particular note were that the machine include FOUR points where an object is flying through the air to trigger the next step. As long time observers of this competition, F=MA determines the trajectory of these flying objects and is notorious for being TOO sensitive to the magnitude and direction of that F component to the equation.

For the first time in 7 years of attendance I voiced a willingness to bet 10 to 1 that this machine was going to need "help" during its 1st (of up to 3) run in order to complete its task. This is a safe bet since I have NEVER seen one with flying objects succeed off the bat.. until this one. I was astonished. A Theta Tau member leaned over to me after the flawless run and said, "I couldn't take your money, because I have seen this work!".

Well, to quote a quote in the book I am reading now, Yesterday's Children, by David Gerrold, "Even Murphy's Law doesn't work all the time". I watched this machine run 2 more times in official competition and once more for the adoring crowd after the restraining ropes were dropped. In every case it failed!


The Society of Women Engineers had the most innovative machine of the competition. It was modeled on the human body. I spoke with Lauren Collins after she gave her emotional presentation to the crowd about how it was inspired by her recent bout with the flu. What a way to have a lemon, but turn it into lemonade.

See some about past years at 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004.

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