Video: Riverhead ‘Dream Team’ competes in physics contest

12/23/2011 2:19 PM |
Rube Goldberg Physics Competition

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Aakash Ghandi starts up his team's Rube Goldberg project. His team, called Dream Team, took first place in the Smart Physics class category at the second annual Rube Goldberg Competition at Riverhead High School Friday.

Last year, their goal was to water a plant. This year, it was to inflate and pop a balloon.

Sounds simple, but not when those are the goals of a Rube Goldberg contest.

Physics students in Riverhead High School competed in the second annual Rube Goldberg competition Friday, where blowing up and popping that balloon, in at least 15 steps, was the goal.

So rather than simply blowing up a balloon and popping it, the routine went more like this:

“…mouse trap snaps back, pulls string back; block of wood falls over; pound weight falls down, pulls on compressor’s lever, balloon inflates, hits needles, pops.”

That was the condensed version of the project from the team called “A Fork in the Garbage Disposal.”

There were a total of 26 steps in the whole thing, team member Gabi Escallier said.

A Fork in the Garbage Disposal, comprised of Gabi, Sameer Anand, Ryan Koebrl, Melissa Kujawski, Amanda Commuins, took first place in the Regents Physics category.

Air compressors or pumps were used in several projects to inflate the balloons. But others used chemical methods.

In the “Dream Team” project, a balloon filled with water is lifted into a vase filled with Alka-Seltzer, which causes the balloon to inflate and be popped by some nails lurking above it, according to team member Aakash Ghandi.

That team, comprised of Aakash, Noah Markewitz, Anthony Antunes, Ryan Diresta, and Nick Cuhna, took first place in the Smart Physics category.

The judges were Dr. Sean Bentley of Adelphi University and Long Island Science Center instructors Leila Makdisi and Judy Isbitiren.

Dr. Bentley got the district the grant that created the Smart Physics program last year, according to physics teacher Greg Wallace, who coordinates the contest with fellow teachers Brian Cunningham and Kim Skinner.

Last year, two Riverhead students finished second and third in the regional Rube Goldberg competition. Mr. Wallace said he believes about six students will compete in the regional competition in February at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City.

Ms. Makdisi described what the judges were looking for.

“We’re looking for creativity, how it moves, if it’s easy to see, and if it’s in the spirt of Rube Goldberg, using everyday materials to do sought of strange things,” she said.

And how’d they do?

“There were some pretty cool ones,” she said.

As with last year’s competition, there were a lot of mouse traps, Hot Wheels tracks and ping pong balls at the high school.

“This is, like, all scrap stuff we found in the garage,” student Meiko Vail said of her team’s project.

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