Illinois team takes second at national Rube Goldberg contest


4/6/2009 12:00 AM

UPDATE: WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. [April 4, 2009] A team from the University of Illinois, led by engineering physics sophomore James Kryger, took second place in the 22nd annual national Rube Goldberg Machine Contest at Purdue University on Saturday, March 28.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. [February 21, 2009] A team from the Illinois Rube Goldberg Society at the University of Illinois, led by engineering physics sophomore James Kryger won the 27th annual Purdue University regional Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, marking the first time a non-Purdue team has won the regional. The Illinois team now advances to the national competition March 28 at Purdue.

The Illinois Rube Goldberg Society, made up of students from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, built a machine based on the board game Clue® called "Scene of the Crime." It followed various characters that were "murdered" along the way in various rooms. The machine featured dice, lead pipes, dominos, a plant that "grows," a magnet and a gripping mechanism that unscrewed an incandescent bulb and screwed in a compact fluorescent bulb. 

The Purdue Rube Goldberg contest, sponsored annually by Phi Chapter of Theta Tau fraternity, rewards machines that most effectively combine creativity with inefficiency and complexity.  This year's task was to build a machine that would utilize a minimum of 20 steps to replace an incandescent light bulb with a more energy-efficient lighting system.  The Illinois machine took 70 steps to complete the task. 

"Coming into the competition, we were a little nervous, but we were very excited to be here for the first time," Kryger said. "We were very pleased with our two perfect runs and are excited to come back to Purdue next month for the national contest." Kryger, of Park Ridge, Ill., was a member of the Maine South High School Rube Goldberg team for two years; Maine South won the 2006 Illinois state title.

Other members of the Illinois team are Justin Johnson (ECE), Mickey Mangan (MechSE), Ian Crane (Physics), Graham Stapleton (Aero), Cori Johnson (ECE), Steve Bettenhausen (ECE), Evan Schrock (ECE), Melissa Sorensen (CEE), Mike Altergott (MechSE), Doug Tanaka (Aero), Chris Walton (CEE), and Derek Walsh (MechSE).

"The Scene of the Crime" will be on display on March 13 and 14 during Engineering Open House in Room 106 Engineering Hall.

Recent News

Assistant Professors Verena Martinez Outschoorn and Liang Yang of the Department of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have each been selected for 2017 NSF CAREER Awards. The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award of the National Science Foundation is conferred annually in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars by integrating outstanding research with excellent education. Receipt of this honor also reflects great promise for a lifetime of leadership within recipients’ respective fields.

Mason says, “there are so few of us, people get the impression that we are like unicorns – either non-existent or magical.” We are far from non-existent, but I find women of color to be quite magical. However, as Jesse Williams says, “Just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re not real.”

  • Outreach

It’s up to you and your team to save the free world from evil forces plotting its destruction, and you have precisely 60 minutes to do it. You must find out what happened to Professor Schrödenberg, a University of Illinois physicist who disappeared after developing a top-secret quantum computer that can crack any digital-security encryption code in the world.  Unfortunately, the previous groups of special agents assigned to the case disappeared while investigating the very room in which you now find yourself locked up, Schrödenberg’s secret lab.

LabEscape is a new science-themed escape room now open at Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana, testing the puzzle-solving skills of groups of up to six participants at a time. Escape rooms, a new form of entertainment cropping up in cities across the U.S. and around the globe, provide in-person mystery-adventure experiences that have been compared to living out a video-game or movie script. A team of participants is presented with a storyline and locked into a room with only one hour to find and decipher a sequence of interactive puzzles that will unlock the door and complete the mission. Two escape room businesses are already in operation in the area, C-U Adventures in Time and Space in Urbana and Brainstorm Escapes in Champaign.

 

  • Research
  • AMO/Quantum Physics
  • Condensed Matter Physics

Topological insulators, an exciting, relatively new class of materials, are capable of carrying electricity along the edge of the surface, while the bulk of the material acts as an electrical insulator. Practical applications for these materials are still mostly a matter of theory, as scientists probe their microscopic properties to better understand the fundamental physics that govern their peculiar behavior.

Using atomic quantum-simulation, an experimental technique involving finely tuned lasers and ultracold atoms about a billion times colder than room temperature, to replicate the properties of a topological insulator, a team of researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has directly observed for the first time the protected boundary state (the topological soliton state) of the topological insulator trans-polyacetylene. The transport properties of this organic polymer are typical of topological insulators and of the Su-Schrieffer-Heeger (SSH) model.

Physics graduate students Eric Meier and Fangzhao Alex An, working with Professor Bryce Gadway, developed a new experimental method, an engineered approach that allows the team to probe quantum transport phenomena.