Riverhead High School hosts science competition

“Chain Reaction” comprised of Kaitlyn Doherty, Sarah Freeborn, Jose Chinchilla, Jordan Tapley and Kathleen Farnam took first place in the AP Regents category at this year’s Riverhead High School Rube Goldberg competition.

Riverhead High School held its third annual Rube Goldberg competition Friday morning, with a goal this year of making a hammer hit a nail, as the culmination of a process that takes at least 20 steps.

Ryan Hubbard of the “Los Cinco Amigos” team explained how their contraption worked: “The train pushes the marble, the marble falls into the cup, and then it goes through that red landing thing into the yellow tube, then through the white tube, onto the duck tape, then it goes into the red cup…” … you get the point.

It all ends with the hammer hitting the nail.

His team’s project worked on the first attempt, but  they didn’t finish in first or second place.

Some students said their project worked every time in practice, only to fail when the judges were watching.

The criteria, which is established by a national Rube Goldberg competition, includes various other factors, including how complex it is, the type of materials used, and even the laugh factor.

“But it’s basically just the wow factor,” said physics teacher Greg Wallace, who coordinates the competition along with fellow teachers Brian Cunningham and Kim Skinner.

There was no category for best team name, but if their was, “E=MC Hammer,” the name of the group comprised of students Eric Divan, Mike Dellarusso, and Leia Kent, probably would have won.

Each entry had three shots to make their contraption work before the judges. If their contraption stalled out in mid-run, they were were allowed to give it a push, but that would also cost them five points. They also would lose five points if objects flew outside their project, as many marbles and golf balls did.

There were two competitions, the 9th grade Smart Physics classes and the Regents AP classes.

This year’s first place finishers in the Smart Physics category were “Six Hero’s in the City,” comprised of students Bryce McKissick, Lauren Mastropolo, Mike Harris, Brian Clark, and Haley Rudnicki.

In the Regents AP category, first place went to “Chain Reaction,” comprised of students Kaitlyn Doherty, Sarah Freeborn, Jose Chinchilla, Jordan Tapley and Kathleen Farnam.

The winners can go on to a regional competition next year in Garden City’s Cradle of Aviation Museum, and possibly to a national competition later on in Detroit, according to Mr. Wallace.

This year saw one of the entries use an iPhone vibration to start the ball rolling by playing music. There were a lot of mouse traps, golf balls and marbles being used (often bouncing all over the place), along with some Legos, a few school books, some cans, a few Hot Wheels tracks and other items.

This year’s competition was also supposed to have an added feature with a Holiday theme, a competition to design catapults to toss fruitcakes, but heavy rains and high winds led to the cancelation of the latter.

That contest will be rescheduled, officials said.

Editor’s note: The author, a News-Review reporter, served as one of the contest’s judges this year.