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Rube Goldberg Contest inspires hard work

I’ve always wanted to apply general and abstract theory into practice. EF Academy, with the concentration on the orientation of careers, has encouraged students to involve themselves in STEAM activities. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics.

In late January, there was an announcement that offered an opportunity to join the Rube Goldberg Machine Challenge. As part of an Earth Day challenge, The Technion was inviting teams of high school students (9-12) from schools around the world to create Earth Day themed Rube Goldberg machines.

A friend of mine, Sean, asked me and some other students studying science to join his team. We had our first meeting on February 2nd. Our team includes 11th grade students Sean, Martin, Zammy, me (Harry) and one 10th grade student Ben. We planned the idea, sought the materials, constructed the model and finally, tried to “make it happen” under the supervision of Dr. Senturk, a physics teacher of the school.

We started the process with planning, which seemed to be the easiest part. But actually, we had several arguments during that time. Then, ultimately, we came to an agreement and followed that plan to build the machine. Each part was constructed separately by a member. Following the theme of the contest, we highlighted the environmental issue as well as the human value. A hair dryer, which was a part of the machine, symbolizes the polluted air emitted to the environment, causing the global warming or greenhouse effect, which leads to the melting of ice. We used a water wheel to trigger dominoes and the dominoes to make the car move can be considered the model simulating the clean energy: hydro power and wind energy. We also paid attention to the aspect of Earth Day elements. Most of the materials we used are everyday recyclable stuff or anything related to the Earth.

As we constructed the model, we got a chance to apply our knowledge in sciences into real life. Moreover, we also learned that when it comes to practice, what we had planned can be altered to come up with new and better ideas. Comparing our final project to the initial planning manuscript, we had changed most of the steps, but that’s how life works. Sometimes, you can’t follow the plan that you have outlined but it helps you to improve your work. Reality is different from what we thought, and from what we learned.

The most unforgettable memory to me was a Saturday evening (March 11th) before the deadline on Wednesday (March 15th). On Friday night, as I read carefully the judging criteria of the competition, the more steps we had, the more points we would receive. I considered adding more steps to increase its complexity, which is one of criteria in judgement. I texted to the group chat that I had some ideas that we could add more steps. Fortunately, Ben – an excellent and outstanding 10th grade student – also researched what can be added to the Earth Day elements list, one of the other criteria. Then, we planned to have a meeting on Saturday. However, in order to add more steps, the supervisor must be there to witness the machine working well at least one time. I really appreciated Dr. Senturk agreed to sacrifice her day off to come here to supervise us. We started working really efficiently at 5:30 P.M on Saturday evening. We added more steps and changed some parts that seemed inappropriate. However, as we added more steps, it became more complex. Whenever we tested different parts separately, it worked. But then when we attempted to do everything, there was always at least one part that couldn’t be triggered, especially the system of colorful dominoes. We concentrated on what we did and attempted to make it happen so we didn’t realize that time elapsed so rapidly. It was midnight but we agreed that we shouldn’t quit. It failed and failed, we tried and tried. I didn’t feel even a little tired, I just wanted to “make it happen”. But then, at 1:30 A.M., it still failed. Though I would love to continue, we needed to stop so that Dr. Senturk could go home and the other students could take a rest. I was so depressed and frustrated at that moment. Even though we had spent 8 hours working without rest, we still failed. We couldn’t make it work even once.

We needed to “make it happen”. We met again on Sunday night. We kept working to fix the problems and make it work. But how disheartened, how discouraged it was! Then we found the better way to trigger the light, which was the tower that holds the ball instead of the system of colorful dominoes. And then FINALLY, FINALLY, we succeeded. It WORKED. The whole process WORKED. After we had tested at least 20 times and they all failed, there were no words that could express my feelings at that time. I was ecstatic at the moment I realized the process was successful…

Then, Zammy was responsible for editing the video to submit to the contest while Martin and I were in charge of the list of description of steps. Meanwhile, Ben and Sean worked on the Earth Day elements explanation. We had started and ended everything ourselves as the regulation states that all decision making and building should be done by the students. However, our project couldn’t complete perfectly like what we did without the supervision and support of Dr. Senturk. I sincerely express my appreciation towards Dr. Senturk because of her devotion, her fervency and her generosity. Without her, we couldn’t even start the project. Without her, we were not allowed to work in the science room. Without her, we were not able to prepare sufficient materials for the machine. I would like to say thanks to her because she sacrificed a day off with family to supervise us.

I learned many precious lessons from this project and I was proud of our group for persevering and putting all in a lot of effort on this project. We didn’t give up. I have tried my best and I will never feel regret for having devoted that much time, regardless of the results. In the end, we succeeded!


written by Khoa Thien Le, IBY1 student from Vietnam

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