Students create virtual Rube Goldberg machine

STLP students create Rube Goldberg Machine
STLP students create Rube Goldberg Machine

Pictured: LCHS seniors involved in an STLP project that includes their version of a Rube Goldberg machine are, from left, Brandon Hurt, Omar Collado, Jacob Thomas, and Lawrence Madriaga.

By Ron Benningfield

When most people think of accomplishing a task, they look for the easiest, straightest path with fewest steps to reach their goal.

An American cartoonist, sculptor, author, engineer, and inventor named Rube Goldberg (1883-1970), however, turned that pattern of thought on its head as he is best known for a series of popular cartoons depicting complicated gadgets that perform simple tasks in indirect, multi-step ways to produce a falling-domino effect. His process of problem solving gave rise to the term Rube Goldberg machines.

Four LaRue County High School students are in the process of creating their own virtual Rube Goldberg machine for the state’s Student Leadership Technology Program. Their challenge asks them to use their machine to shoot off virtual fireworks in the computer game, Minecraft.

“The more complex and varied the process to achieve this, the better the team’s score will be,” noted Theresa Banks, LCHS technology resource technician.

Basically, Minecraft is about placing and mining blocks. The game world consists of 3D objects—mainly cubes—that represent materials such as dirt, stone, various ores, water and tree trunks. Players gather these material blocks and use them to form various constructions.

Seniors Brandon Hurt, Jacob Thomas, Omar Collado, and Lawrence Madriaga developed their problem-solving steps by bouncing ideas off each other. They used their creativity to help coordinate those steps. Banks said the boys have spent over 70 hours developing their project.

“At the current time, we have several steps including a maze, a TNT cannon, the first Olympic stadium, and the Parthenon,” noted Hurt. “Throughout these steps we use in-game components such as Command Blocks, Redstone, Redstone torches, Redstone Repeaters, and Pistons.”

Hurt said that without a working model or blueprint, the group has had to rely on their ingenuity and creativity.

“We basically just build and add on as the ideas come,” he commented.

Since this is a state-only, not regional, competition, the students’ project will be submitted and judged electronically with winners being announced at the state STLP conference in April in Lexington.

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