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Rube Goldberg Machine Contest coming to WCTC March 9

High school students from Wisconsin, Illinois will show off their STEM and problem-solving skills

Pouring a bowl of cereal is a simple, straightforward task, but to accomplish it in 20 steps (or more) is most certainly a challenge. To achieve such a task takes trial and error, patience, strategy and a good dose of humor.

That’s where the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest comes into play.

On Friday, March 9, more than 100 high school students and instructors on 10 teams from high schools throughout Wisconsin and Illinois will compete and display their cereal-pouring machines as part of the Wisconsin High School Regional Rube Goldberg Machine Contest (RGMC) held at Waukesha County Technical College (Service Building -- Gymnasium). Participants will demonstrate their engineering skills, compete for prizes and vie for an opportunity to advance to the finals in April at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

This is the eighth year WCTC will host high school regionals, and this year marks the 30th anniversary of the RGMC. Challenges in recent years have included applying a bandage, opening an umbrella and erasing a chalkboard.

The RGMC’s main goal is to encourage critical thinking and problem solving in a non-traditional learning environment.

“WCTC is excited to again host the Rube Goldberg regional competition. The STEM skills and imagination high school students use to make their machines is impressive,” said Mark Rzeznik, WCTC associate dean of Graphics, Engineering and Diesel Technologies. “In addition, students learn that while building a working machine is important, so are some of the mishaps in transporting a machine from their school to the competition. I have seen several very creative fixes to get the machine back up and running.”

Members of WCTC’s faculty will be among the dozens of professional engineer volunteer judges who will provide valuable feedback to students.

The RGMC challenges students to take an elementary task and provide a complex, zany solution using ordinary objects, mechanical gadgets and miscellaneous items to achieve a specific goal. The completed machine must fit in an overall space of 250 cubic feet and run for no more than 2 minutes per run.

Rounds 1 and 2 of judging will be from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with a third round of judging from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. The awards ceremony will be from 2:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.; specialty awards will also be announced. The public is invited to attend this free event.

Schools/districts participating in the 2018 event include:

  • Benton High School

  • Berlin High School

  • Glenbard South High School – Glen Ellyn, Ill.

  • Kimberly High School

  • Milwaukee Lutheran High School

  • Pius XI Catholic High School – Milwaukee

  • St. Catherine’s High School –Racine

  • Waunakee High School

  • Waupaca High School

  • Wauwatosa School District

The RGMC is named after the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, sculptor, author and engineer who spent the early part of his career making “inventions” to tackle basic tasks. The event is coordinated by the Milwaukee Area Engineering and Technology Partnership, which includes WCTC, STEM Forward, Milwaukee Area Technical College and Milwaukee School of Engineering.

On Friday, April 20, WCTC will also hold a Rube Goldberg Machine Contest for middle school students (primarily from Waukesha County schools). The middle school challenge is to ring a bell.

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About Waukesha County Technical College

Waukesha County Technical College, the leader in workforce development, prepares learners for success within the region and global economy. The College offers more than 150 areas of study including associate degree, technical diploma, apprenticeship and short-term certificate programs. Customized training for employers is also available. To learn more, visit