Get ready for the annual Charles Sturt Engineering Rube Goldberg Machine

6 MARCH 2024

Get ready for the annual Charles Sturt Engineering Rube Goldberg Machine

Commencing first-year student civil engineers at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst are ‘in at the deep end’ and hard at work on their first engineering task, to construct and run a giant Rube Goldberg Machine.

  • The 2024 Rube Goldberg Machine will run at Charles Sturt Engineering in Bathurst at 1pm on Thursday 7 March
  • The current intake of student engineers is the ninth cohort to start the program and build the machine

Commencing first-year student civil engineers at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst are ‘in at the deep end’ and hard at work on their first engineering task, to construct and run a giant Rube Goldberg Machine.

These dynamic machines use an overly complex set of chain reactions, such as falling dominoes, spinning bicycle wheels and marble runs, to perform a simple task.

The event starts at 12.30pm on Thursday 7 March (earlier than previous years) so participants and spectators are ready for the Rube Goldberg Machine to run at 1pm at Charles Sturt Engineering (building 1305) in Bathurst.

Everyone is invited to attend to watch the machine in action, but don’t be late because once the machine is started, it’s all over in about 60 seconds.

Principal Engineer-in-Residence in Charles Sturt University Engineering Associate Professor Peter Thew explained that commencing student engineers spend their first two weeks in the engineering program working in teams to construct and operate the complex ‘machine’ known as a ‘Rube Goldberg Machine’.

“We provide our commencing student engineers with their first team-building and problem-solving exercise building a Rube Goldberg Machine,” Professor Thew said. “Students have to think through the energy transfers and processes which make the whole thing work.”

He explained that a Rube Goldberg Machine is based on the 1928 inventions in comics by inventor and engineer, Rube Goldberg, which feature numerous steps that interact and combine to perform a simple task such as fishing an olive out of a bottle, scratching your own back or swatting a fly.

Each annual machine project is given a different theme which needs to be incorporated somehow, and in 2023 the theme was ‘What is civil engineering?’, in celebration of 100 years since commencement of construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

“In 2024 the theme is ‘sustainability and perpetual motion’,” Professor Thew said.

“Knowing that perpetual motion is, in fact, impossible, we have asked the students to replicate it in parts of their model, so the purpose of the machine will be to loop around and push down the original domino again.”

The machine will start as it always does with a special guest, this year the new Director of the Charles Sturt Engineering program Professor Tim Anderson, setting off a run of dominos, which will lead on to the new innovative steps the students create.

The 2024 intake of student engineers is the ninth cohort to start the program and includes 17 undergraduates (14 males and three females) and four direct entry postgraduate students.

“This subject gets our students off to a running start,” Professor Thew said. “They are nine days into their degree and already they are delivering a project, defending it in public and talking in engineering terms about what they are doing.

“It reflects the practical approach we have to the engineering degree. In just over 15 months these same students will be heading off to work as engineering cadets, designing structures, managing projects and related tasks.

“Our program Vision Statement is, ‘Grow engineers and engineering expertise in our region, Connect with community to apply and share our knowledge, Make the world a better place now and in the future’. This event is a step in that direction.”

The first students who premiered the CSU Engineering Rube Goldberg Machine in 2016 graduated from the Bachelor of Technology/Masters of Engineering (Civil Systems) in 2021.

Charles Sturt cadet engineers are already working around NSW, mainly in regional areas, providing a boost to the engineering services available in these areas, as intended at the creation of the course.

The video of the 2022 Charles Sturt Engineering Rube Goldberg Machine is available to watch on YouTube.

The event will be staged at Charles Sturt Engineering (building 1305) on Village Drive at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst starting at 12.30pm for the running of the machine at 1pm on Thursday 7 March.


Media Note:

To arrange interviews with Associate Professor Peter Thew, contact Bruce Andrews at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0418 669 362 or news@csu.edu.au

Photos: Top, first-year student engineers working on the 2023 Rube Goldberg Machine, and sections of the 2023 Rube Goldberg Machine.

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