In the spring of 1998, freshman engineer Shawn Jordan approached the Purdue Society of Professional Engineers with a proposal: starting a new Rube Goldberg team on Purdue's campus.
With the help of then-president Karen Davis, a new group began designing and building a machine in Shawn's one-bedroom apartment (much to the dismay of his roommates).
The first machines were built with nearly no budget, meaning that cardboard, duct tape, and job fair giveaways were the primary building blocks.
The temporary nature of these materials made reliability a challenge for the dedicated group of individuals, whose creativity shined through in the machines they took to competition.
The experience gained during the first three years led up to a major achievement: winning first place at the local competition, and going on to place second at nationals!
These significant accomplishments set the stage for three prosperous years, where each machine was significantly more complex than the last.
Contributing to the success was the opportunity for the team to build their machines in a wonderful warehouse with plenty of space.
During this three-year period, the team also had the great honor to exhibit three of its machines in the Governor of Indiana's Indiana 2016 booth at the Indiana State Fair.
As excitement on the team increased, they went into overdrive and won two back-to-back national championships and were awarded a Guinness World Record for the World's Largest Functioning Rube Goldberg machine (125 steps).
These big wins resulted in a myriad of opportunities for the team to appear on television, including two appearances on Jimmy Kimmel LIVE! (ABC), ESPN, Games Across America (GSN), The Daily Planet (Discovery Channel Canada), and Attack of the Show (G4TV).
The team was also featured in a feature-length documentary on the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, which is currently in post-production and should be released to the public soon.
It was also important for us to give back to the community, which had supported the team for many years.
We began to do a number of presentations for the community, including at the Purdue University President's Council Back to Class weekend, and the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. Our 2004 “Rube’s County Fair” machine was also demonstrated and put on display at the Muncie Children’s Museum for a period of time.
At the end of the 2005 - 2006 season, the team's founder and leader for 8 years, Shawn Jordan, retired from the competition.
He continues to do community education and outreach activities related to Rube Goldberg machines.
Thank you Shawn!
In 2006, Team Veteran Drew Wischer (Aviator) became Captain of the team.
Unfortunately through graduation of members and others choosing to move on, he was left to build a new team.
Starting fresh he recruited 13 new dedicated and hardworking individuals.
It proved to be an invaluable and rewarding experience to all involved with the team.
Working hard and spending many hours, the team in 2007 again took home the title of Regional Contest winners.
At the National Competition, the team earned Second place and started looking forward to bringing back the title in 2008.
We also continued to give back to the community.
The “The Orange is Not Enough” machine was displayed at Purdue’s Envision 2007 and the College of Technology’s, Distinguished Alumni event.
Currently, the machine resides at the Orchard School in Indianapolis, Indiana, and is being used in a science curriculum for 5th graders.
With our partnership, our machine has taught early engineering and simple machines to young minds!
2008 proved to be a big year! With more experience, the team took on the most difficult task that it has ever encountered.
We assembled a hamburger! On February 23rd, the team took home its fourth consecutive Regional Competition title.
After five weeks of hard work rebuilding the machine, April 5th was the day we fought for the ultimate title; National Champions.
The team took home first place for the third time in four years! It was a big day for the 17 members of the current team and it shows that true teamwork combined with hard work really pays off in the end!
The machine now resides at Bluffton - Harrison High School in Bluffton, IN.
There it is on display to demonstrate creative thinking and inspire future engineers.
With the graduation of “Fly-Boy” Drew Wischer in Spring 2008, the reigns were passed on to Team Veterans Zach Umperovitch and Greg Bauman for the 2008-2009 Season.
With 14 returning members and 5 new additions to the team it started off a very promising year for the “Blackout Vegas” Machine designed to solve the task of “replacing an incandescent light bulb with a more energy efficient light emitting design”. However, after several run-ins with problems and lack of time to complete crucial elements, the team took 3rd Place at the Regional Competition. After several presentations to local schools and organizations, the machine was disassembled for re-use of the base for the 2009-2010 season.
The 2009 season started off exceptionally well with 8 returning members and 8 excellent member additions to the team for the start of the “Rube’s Workshop” Machine designed to “Dispense an appropriate amount of hand sanitizer into one’s hand”.
Due to time constraints, Greg Bauman decided not to return which left the reigns in the hands of Zach Umperovitch (Geologist).
The machine performed almost flawlessly at the Regional competition, and the team took home another 1st place regional title, in addition to the People’s Choice Award.
The machine underwent some aesthetic modifications and was off to Nationals!
Unfortunately, due to error, the box truck to transport the machine was 1/16” to short to fit the machine and was forced onto a pickup truck.
The machine was severely rattled and was unable to function at Nationals (we even had our cannon miss it’s catcher and destroy another step!!!).
Sadly, we did not place, but we had still had a lot of fun! Coming in May 2011, the 2010 Machine and our team will be featured on the History Channel Show: Modern Marvels!!!
Check out our site after that time to see the footage!
The 2010-2011 season was a good season for the team.
We had 7 returning members and received 5 new members.
Along with the addition we joined forces with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, adding 3 more members.
We started the year off strong designing and building “The Time Machine” to travel through the ages and complete the task of “watering a plant”.
At regionals the machine performed valiantly needing almost no interventions; at regionals the machine won both 1st place and people’s choice.
After Regionals, we aired the machine on the local news channel Fox 59.
After which, we took the machine back to the workshop and after countless hours we overhauled the machine to prepare for Nationals.
We not only enhanced the overall aesthetics of the machine but also certain steps were reworked.
At Nationals, the machine was bested due to technical errors starting and running the machine.
The machine was unable to place; however, after the judging had been completed we were able to run the machine flawlessly.
This run was documented, and sent to the Guinness World Record accreditation office.
After several weeks of anticipation, the certificate granting the machine the title of “World’s Largest Rube Goldberg Machine” arrived.
The 2011-2012 season has been another great year for the team. Putting in roughly 3000 man hours between 8 returning members and 6 new members.
Starting off strong, we began designing and brainstorming various ideas for themes and modules. One of the key things we thought to work on was new base
design that incorperated rotation in some manner. After several meetings and countless redesigns we finally decided on a base design consisting of two rotating
paddle wheels. With the new base design we were able to maximize the amount of space used on the machine. After countless late nights and many weekends spent in
the shop the team was able to construct a magnifisant 300 step machine, by encompassing every final task from the previous 25 years of competition. At Regionals,
we ran into a bit of a stag with some rubber hosing over heating and rupturing. This minor set back forced us to run our piston engine on air, rather than the steam
the boiler generated. Even with 3 runs averaging 5 interventions each, the team was able to take first place. After, we regrouped and refocused on refining the issues
that we had and ensuring that they wouldn't bother us at National. As Nationals arrived, we were challenged again by a change of venue. Rather than the Armory, we were
set in Elliott hall of Music. This proved a new challenege; with every slight movement the stage would shake causing some of the more fragil steps some duress. We ended
National with second place, people's choice, and most rube like machine. After the judging had been completed we were able to run the machine flawlessly. This run was
documented, and sent to the Guinness World Record accreditation office. With the news of the World Redord the team was featured on numerous media outlets.
Including MSN.com, Wired Magazine, and Time Magazine; to name a few.
The PSPE Rube Goldberg Team would like to thank everyone that has helped us through the years. To our dedicated sponsors and to our loyal fans, may there be many more years of success to our team and to Purdue! BOILER UP!