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Purdue University Team SMASHES Rube Goldberg Record

2013 Task

Yes, Purdue University is my alma mater, and I am very proud that the Purdue Society of Professional Engineers team smashed its own Guinness world record for largest Rube Goldberg machine with a 300-step behemoth that flawlessly accomplished the simple task of blowing up and popping a balloon.

If you are not familiar with the Rube Goldberg, it is a contest to build a complicated feat of engineering to perform a very simple task. The contest was named after Rube Goldberg, a United States cartoonist who drew intricate diagrams of very complicated and impractical contraptions that accomplished little or nothing (1883-1970). In this contest (video below), the machine simply had to blow up a balloon and pop it. That’s it.

The team spent more than 5,000 hours constructing the machine that accomplished every task ever assigned in the competition’s 25-year history, including peeling an apple, juicing an orange, toasting bread, making a hamburger, changing a light bulb, loading a CD and sharpening a pencil.

Although I never participated in the contest, several of my engineering friends did, and it was so inspiring to see them totally engross themselves in their design. I hope you enjoy this incredible creation in the video. And yes, I applauded when it was done. It is very common for a small error occur thus causing the entire design to fail. This 300-step monstrosity is a phenomenal complicated and magnificently creative machine that performed without a hitch.

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE TEAM!  (oh, watch in full screen at the 720p quality – can see the mechanics much more easily)

Purdue team smashes Rube Goldberg world record


Here is a drawing by Rube himself which is a simply fly swatter. I remember as a young child I was completely entranced by his drawings (and still am for that matter). I would carefully study each one, step by step, from “A” to “B”, all the way to the end all the while fully imagining the entire scene and contraption in my head.

“Hail, hail to ol’ Purdue, all hail to the old gold and black!….”

Related Sites:
Rube Goldberg Site
Wikipedia:  Rube Goldberg machine
Wired:  Record-Breaking Rube Goldberg Machine Pops Balloon in 300 Steps


  1. Michelle, ” stupid” means “smart” “dope” means “great” “bad” means “good” whassamatter for you – don’t you speak English? Rube Goldberg is still the dopest. continue…

  2. I love Rube Goldberg devices. There is something wonderful about spending loads of time and money to complete a mundane task (sounds like a Republican monetary mantra for military spending).

    • OMG… you did just describe the military spending!

      And mousetrap was my FAVORITE game, too, as a kid. That’s what these machines always remind me of – playing mousetrap.

    • Why thank you, thank you very much (she says in Elvis’ voice). Kidding… the students did a phenomenal job. I have to wonder how many mistakes were made during it’s creation. I’m sure thousands. But they were tenacious and kept to it.

    • Thanks! And you could hear the happiness in their voices when it worked all the way through. I know because all my Rube friends at Purdue had many more failures than successes and a solid run was more of the goal than winning the contest was.

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