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US Students Use Physics, Creativity to Create Whimsical Machine

High school and college students throughout Los Angeles have been preparing for a machine building competition that challenges their science and creativity skills, as well as their patience. It is the regional Rube Goldberg Machine Contest. The machines have to have a series of chain reactions to complete a simple task. The task of building a machine is anything but simple.

At the end of the school day, a physics classroom at Ánimo Venice Charter High School is transformed into a workshop. For the last two months, six students, with the help of their physics teacher Christina Hannouche, have been trying to build a machine that erases a chalkboard.

“That’s a simple task and they have to come up with a whole crazy machine that has as many chain reactions as possible to, in the end, erase that chalkboard," said Hannouche.

It’s called a Rube Goldberg Machine, named after the American Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and inventor who specialized in drawing complex machines that performed simple tasks. In less than a week, the students will be entering their machine in a citywide competition in the regional Rube Goldberg Machine Contest.

Fourteen-year-old Kelly McNamee is one of the team members.
“I’m kind of nervous and excited because we’re not done yet, but we’re getting there, and we’re almost done," said McNamee.

But even getting to this point has not been easy, says Melissa Garcia.

“The most challenging part is trying to not get frustrated," said Garcia.

Hannouche says getting all the chain reactions to work is anything but simple.
“They need to be persistent because we’ve probably run this 50 times and it’s only worked twice," she said.

“It’s hard not to blame other people or ourselves, and we sort of have to keep working together and find a solution," said Garcia.

Melissa Garcia and her teammates find solutions in physics and everyday objects such as marbles, a toilet seat and a toy train. The objects came from students’ homes and their neighborhood streets. Hannouche says the goal is not just a complex machine that works, but one that is also creative.

“Just combining all of their knowledge that they have about everything in life and then working as a team and putting it together, I think, is just an incredibly valuable experience," she said.

Melissa Garcia says she didn’t know what to expect when they first started.
“I think we’re all impressed and amazed by what we created," she said.
In just a few days these students will find out if their machine will impress and amaze the judges on competition day.