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Winning is simply complex

The team of Wilbraham-Monson Academy students to win second place in April's Rube Goldberg Machine Design Contest stand with their coach, Teacher Jim Langomarsino. Reminder Publications submitted photo
By Danielle Paine

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM A team of six students from the Blake Middle School used simple complications to clench second place in the National Association of Independent School's 2007 Rube Goldberg Machine Design Contest.

On April 14, the group of four eighth graders, two seventh graders and one sixth grader headed into the gym of the Fay School in Southborough, Massachusetts with the same box of strange materials as the competition's 19 other teams.

In just three hours, they turned items such as Slinkies, mouse traps and bouncy balls into a 16-step machine designed to (eventually) squeeze a specified amount of toothpaste onto a toothbrush.

"On the day of the competition you have just three hours to build a machine from scratch without preparing any of the materials," explained teacher Jim Langomarsino. "It gets pretty exciting in the last 45 minutes of adjustments. That's really the fun part of watching the teams."

Two months of weekends, nights and vacations were spent in preparation for the contest. They made more than 50 design sketches and built countless prototypes using substitute materials, Langomarsino said.

The purpose of the contest and of Rube Goldberg machines are to over-complicate simple tasks with as many steps as possible. One action by a human, such as sending a small ball down a ramp, sets off a chain of events that transfers energy through a variety of tasks until finally, the machine's main purpose is completed in the last step.

"The purpose is really to promote engineering within the middle school age group," Langomarsino said about the contest.

This is the second year that Blake Middle School has competed against public private and charter schools to win second place.

Langomarsino has required his eighth grade students to make these machines as year-end projects for the last 15 years. Next year, the school hopes to clench another even more complicated win.

Blake Middle School is a part of Wilbraham-Monson Academy.