GIRARD — A ball rolled through a tube and triggered a handmade mechanism which then knocked down another causing a chain reaction just to water a plant.

The simple task of watering a plant was made complex by adding a maximum of 75 steps during the first ever Greenbush Rube Goldberg Competition on Tuesday.

Rube Goldberg was a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist known for his “zany” invention cartoons.

Goldberg had a degree in engineering, but ended up drawing at the San Francisco Chronicle and then to New York City at Hearst publications where he became widely known for his invention cartoons. A “Rube Goldberg device” is a machine designed to perform a simple task — such as turning on a light switch — in the most absurdly complex manner possible: Think the board game “Mousetrap.”

Each Rube Goldberg device told a story. One space and science-themed mechanism called “The Big Einsteins” started off with a scientist named Rick, who was always late. Rick, played by a Bartlett School student Camden Farrow, started off asleep on the floor. Once the alarm went off he set off the mechanism.

The idea, The Big Einsteins team said, sprung from a group of students being consistently late for class and from there, it was just trial and error.

Bartlett Science Teacher Carolyn Waugh said her students spent two months preparing for this day. She said students who were good at public speaking, art, building and more, benefited from the event in one shape or form.

“This gives an opportunity for each kid’s unique gift to shine,” she said.

Another group, from Fort Scott Middle School managed to water their plant, even if it wasn’t in the way they planned. Their theme was Super Mario Bros. — complete with tubes and Mario himself painted on the board.

FSMS student Dryden Cosens said the fun part was building the structure, but making adjustments — especially after moving it to Greenbush — was hard.

“Seeing something we made work for the first time was exciting,” he said.


FSMS Teacher Adam Feagins said it was the “best” watching his students work as a team and putting the project together. He said the students, including the school’s other team “The Monsters” hope to come back for next year's competition.

The other teams were: Outside the Box, Bodacious Bigfoot, Paradise Run and The Office.  

The judges visited each team’s setup and asked questions regarding the materials and the dynamics of the group. The students were judged on the re-purposing of everyday items, the “laugh barometer,” theme or story, artistry and construction, and absurd complexity. They were also judged by how the machine runs, communication and teamwork.

“It’s been great, lots of fun, we’ve enjoyed talking to the kids and seeing their projects in action,” Director of STEM Lisa Blair said.

Winners of the competition were given an award to take back to their school.

Winners of the Greenbush Rube Goldberg Machine Contest are:

1st Overall went to The Big Einsteins, 2nd Overall went to team Outside the Box and 3rd Overall went to the group Bodacious Bigfoot.

Other awards include the Rube Goldberg Teamwork Award which went to Paradise Run, the Rube Goldberg Creative Spark Award went to Mario's Crew and the Spirit of Rube Goldberg Award was given to the team The Office.

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.