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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Youth tinker with Rube Goldberg machines


Six teams of students from A&M Consolidated Middle School competed to build their best Rube Goldberg-style machine for the University Art Gallery’s Fuzzy Logic Competition Wednesday in Rudder Plaza.
The competition was designed to tie into one of the Stark Gallery’s current exhibits, “The Curious World of Patent Models.”
“We have our patent model exhibit, which is full of interesting inventions from history,” said Greg Phillipy, education coordinator at Stark Galleries. “We were hoping for Aggie students to participate, but we got the next best thing – future Aggies.”
Recycled wood, duct tape and dominos were just some of the items the students used for their machines, along with toy cars, paper cups and marbles.
“We have a shop at the school for robotics, so we had a lot of wood and spare parts there,” said Nicki Garner, robotics and simulations teacher at the middle school. “We also used tools we own or were donated and lots of the kids either bought or brought extra parts for their machines.”
Phillipy said the competition encouraged recycling materials rather than going out and buying parts.
“We encouraged participants to use things at hand, and not make really extravagant purchases,” Phillipy said. “The competition really was a sort of sustainability exercise, too.”
Garner said the students have been talking about the competition even outside of her class.
“I kept hearing from teachers that the students were so excited,” Garner said. “They kept asking if college students were doing it as well. It gave them more incentive and motivation to do well and make the machine look good.”
The objective of the machine was to pop a balloon and the judges chose three winners based on creativity, complexity and machine flow.
“We had prizes for the winners, certificates and a bag of goodies,” Phillipy said. “We had gold, silver, honorable mention and people’s choice. Anybody walking around could submit for people’s choice.”
The team “Lolcats” took the gold certificate home.
Amina Alikahn, Class of 1992 and mother of one of the competitors, said she heard about the competition through the Stark Gallery mailing list and passed it on to Garner as an interesting field trip idea.
“They had their projects finished before spring break,” Alikahn said. “When the kids heard they could compete at Texas A&M, there was a completely different level of interest.”
The students’ machines started to attract Aggies passing through, including senior food science major Pablo Vasquez, who stopped to ask questions and watch trial runs.
“I’m impressed,” Vasquez said. “It’s nice to see kids who are engaged in these types of activities.”
Vasquez said competitions like the Fuzzy Logic event gets middle school students on the right track, enriches their learning and helps foster a spirit of teamwork.
“The fact that they’re middle schoolers doesn’t mean anything,” Vasquez said. “They’re people trying to use their brains.”

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