Video: Riverhead students compete in Rube Goldberg competition


Duct tape, mousetraps, old Hot Wheels tracks and other odds and ends were everywhere in the Riverhead High School gym on Dec. 23. There were also ropes and scissors and ping-pong balls and even plants. (See video)

No, they weren’t all bad Christmas presents being collected and inventoried for a massive re-gifting.

These were some of the things that high school and middle school physics students used for a Rube Goldberg competition.

The contest required students to make working contraptions out of available materials, contraptions that have to go through far more steps than necessary to achieve a simple result — in this case, watering a plant.

The contest required the entries to take a minimum of 20 steps.

“Over 100 yards of duct tape was used to create this,” said senior Conrad Buhner. His team, called The Toy Group, was one of the two winners in the Advanced Placement physics class.

A description of their project has passages that read like this: “…triggering another rat trap to pull out a stopper, swinging the Ninja Turtle to hit a softball stuffed with duct tape to make it heavier …” And so on.

“The kids are very excited,” said science teacher Kim Skinner. “They’ve been designing and testing and redesigning.”

The Rube Goldberg competition hasn’t been a regular event in the school for some time, according to Ms. Skinner, who said it used to be part of the annual science fair.

“Last year, we did it in the Advanced Placement Physics class and it was just so much fun, we decided this year that it had to be an annual event,” Ms. Skinner said.

The competition was open to students in the 11th- and 12th-grade Regents and AP Physics classes, and to 9th-graders in the Smart Physics class, she said.

The winners will go on to a regional competition on Feb. 12 at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, and if they collect victories there, they can go to a national event in Michigan on March 19 and win cash prizes, according to Suzanne Hulme, the district’s science director.

Chris Sorto described his team’s project: “It starts off with the tetherball going around, it knocks the paddle over, the paddle pulls the cup down where there’s a fishing line attached to it, that causes the trigger to go off, which hits the toilet paper tube, that hits the golf ball, that hits the car, then falls into the cup, and pulls a string which releases a battery, that pulls the scissor down, cutting a rope, which lets a pipe fall down …”

It goes on for a while. It culminates with watering the plant.

His team, called The Awesome Group, was the other AP Physics winner, although their project wouldn’t work when the News-Review tried to video it for its website.

Debbie Bates explained that her team’s project knocks over a teapot filled with acetone, which melts a Styrofoam cup, releasing some marbles.

“It’s really cool when you watch it,” she said.

Their project not only watered the plant, it fertilized it with Miracle Grow.

“When we started out, our whole plan was we had no idea what we were doing,” Conrad Buhner said. “So we took all of our ideas, and we just brought a bunch of stuff and came together and we designed this.”

Components included a toy cosmonaut, a backboard from a bed frame, a fish tank and a dartboard.

The competition was organized by Ms. Skinner and fellow physics teachers Greg Wallace and Brian Cunningham, according to Ms. Hulme.
There were two winners in each of the three categories, 9th-grade Physics, Regents Physics and AP Physics.

The ninth-grade winners were the teams White Stripes (Pola Dobrzynski, Justine Kundmuller, Nyleaih Green and Perla Leon) and The Group (Robert Prentis, Dakota Cohen, Dakota Cardillo, Jessica Sisti and Kyle Gardner).

Regents Physics winners were Young Money Brick Squad (Chris Lara, Jordan Demchuck, Chris Manzella, Dylan Kelly, Jordan Fulcoly, Rob Pisano, Nick and Joe Prete, and Marly Portocarrera) and The Beatles (Mary Verderber, Tara Smith, Macey Reichel, Nick Disalvo and Noah Gorman).

AP Physics winners were The Awesome Group (Dave Talmage, Chris Sorto, Alex Liquori, Matt Carol, John Horton and Elliot Jones) and The Toy Group (Conrad Buhner, Andrew Plattner, Jimmy Peterson, Dan Morgan, Ed Schneck and Robert Sosik).

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