Lesson in motion: Rubefest puts students in the machine

Rick Gunn photoInventors, from left to right, Cody Salinas, 17, Nick Josten, 18, and Kevin Bunch, 17, work on their Rubefest project, called the 'Oh, Rube, Where Art Thou' machine.

Rick Gunn photoInventors, from left to right, Cody Salinas, 17, Nick Josten, 18, and Kevin Bunch, 17, work on their Rubefest project, called the 'Oh, Rube, Where Art Thou' machine.

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Satan's Circus was bedeviled by a technical difficulty. One of the marbles --used to trip a lever that would eventually release a machete to pop a balloon -- would stick.

All it took was a little adjustment.

Then, over the loud media show accompanying the display, you could hear the rolling ball, the tripping levers and the final satisfying pop that indicated another balloon had fallen at Carson High School's annual Rubefest.

Friday's tribute to cartoonist Rube Goldberg packed Senator Square with projects and spectators

Physics teacher Mark Johnson went from space to space, watching students as they put their projects through the paces.

Thirty-three machines, the hard work of 165 Carson physics students, were on display.

Some, like Satan's Circus, featured additional media tie-ins.

Oh Rube Where Art Thou featured a small car designed to trigger a nail gun aimed at three balloons.

Johnson said the projects were the product of anywhere from a few days to a few months work.

The point of the exercise isn't actually whether the devices work or not.

Students are given a list of mechanical elements -- levers, pulleys, projectiles, inclined planes -- to include in their machines' operation.

"Some of them work, some of them don't," Johnson said. "These can be very complex machines, so some of them work once and never work again."

Complexity was troubling the Martha Stewart team, consisting of Chris Morrison, 18, Megan Keller, 17, and Kate Hardt, 17. The trio of high school seniors had been working on their project for months. It, like Satan's Circus, was kicked off by launching a marble into the mouth of a funnel.

In both projects, hitting the target was occasionally a problem.

Chris said before they moved to the machine he hit the funnel every time, but moving it changed the dynamic.

The trio worked on their project two weekends and then every night this week to wrap it up.

Cody Salinas was lining up the car on a ramp for the Oh Rube, Where Art Thou machine.

The air hose for the nail gun wasn't hooked up, though, since the balloons were in an enclosure. There would be just one chance to make the machine work.

"I sang the song 'Man of Constant Sorrow' for Mr. Carson High and we just decided to continue the theme," said Salinas.

Ryan Ravenelle, 17, a member of the Satan's Circus team, which included Jesse Graham, Tyler Jesse and Chris Macguire, said it just took a small adjustment to bring their machine to life.

Johnson has been conducting the Rubefest since he became the physics teacher at Carson High School five years ago. He has taught for the high school for eight years, starting out in the math department. Johnson and his wife moved here from Montana.

The machines are the culmination of the section on mechanical physics.

The idea is based on Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Reuben Lucius Goldberg's work.

Goldberg, who died in 1970, was known for the elaborate contraptions in his cartoons, which he described as symbols of man's capacity for exerting maximum effort to accomplish minimal results.


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