2011 Rube Goldberg Competition at UT Austin

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

Carol and I made our way through throngs of engineering students studying with their classmates to the north east corner of the main floor in what is the current incarnation of last century's Taylor Hall. The 2011 Rube Goldberg competition was about to start.

This year's task is "Watering A Plant". Each machine must fit in a cube 2 meters on a side and have a minimum of 20 steps. Each machine is attended to by 2 team members who must explain the operation within 3 minutes and the "run" must not exceed 2 minutes (including helps... There will be helps!).

This year's judges were old hands at the job: Dr. Billy Wood, Dr. Janice Williams, and Dr. Ben Hodges.

This event is the only thing that ever brings me into the building, but I've been doing it for sufficiently many years that I know my way around, both physically and tactically. I was able to position Carol (5'2", eyes of blue) so she was able to see the 2 of the 3 machines do their thing from beginning to end. Students stood on chairs and held their, their ? communication devices?. Those things do some much now that it is a misnomer to cite just their phone capability. Anyway, they held them over their heads to snap a shot of the action. I didn't see anyone taking movies this year.



The Society of Women Engineers for the 3rd year running had the most innovative theme. This time it was the jungle with greenery everywhere to go with the water and plant task at hand. Step #26 was a weak point in the design and required ever-so-careful balancing to provide water displacement. Alas (wink) the machine required several helps and went all awry about 3/4s way through its steps. So, they opted to void their first run, and the competition attention moved to ASME.


The American Society of Mechanical Engineers never ceases to amaze me with how much bite off. They put together a two story house with stuff happening in every room of garage, kitchen, utility room, 3 bedrooms, and at the end watering an entire lawn! All of this to be done in a staggering 61 steps. This was a labor of a number of teams. Beautiful touches went lost in the plethora of snaps, rolls, and launches. The one I'm thinking of is a ball-maze around a plaque of the A S M E initials. That took an artist's care.

Even with the rapid fire description, hand indications, and all the 3 minute time limit was exeeded. That was a first as far as I can remember.

A s   y o u   c a n   i m a g i n e... many helps were necessary. The contraption was so dense the operator had trouble identifying just where the next help was needed and being able to get their arm in there to make the push.

Run voided. The competition moved on to Theta Tau.

Theta Tau

You might want to look back at what I wrote for the 2010 competition about Theta Tau. I instantly recognized Chris Hunt, now a 3rd year EE (from a photo op in yesterday's Austin American Statesman newspaper). He was much in evidence. I found the opportunity to inform a couple observers at hand that that man was behind the only first time run that needed NO helps in the 7 previous years of local competition.

But, Murphy's Law was not be be denied this year. When the machine went awry about 1/3 of the way through the steps, Chris seemed insensed at the affrontery and voided the run without further comment.

There was a lull as all 3 competitors prepared for round 2. Alas, SWE's machine just wasn't ready. It quit in exactly the same places.

ASME faired no better, though I couldn't tell just where.

BUT! Theta Tau's went the distance on the 2nd try AND... won the competition for 2011. I'm reasonably confident those non-students you see the Theta Tau last photo are the justifiably proud family (see the family resemblance?).

See some about past years at 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004.

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