Freshmen Engineers Take Aim at Rube Goldberg Record to Kick Off Philadelphia Science Festival

Rube Goldberg team
Engineering students from Drexel and Penn are teaming up to build a giant Rube Goldberg device.

A team of 45 Drexel University freshmen engineering students are creating a simple plan to break the world record for a most-elaborate machine. As part of the Philadelphia Science Festival, the students, with the support of The Franklin Institute, Dow Chemical and several local partner organizations are trying to take down a two-year-old Guinness World Record for the largest Rube Goldberg machine –a cartoonish device that uses multiple, often absurdly over-engineered reactions, to complete a simple task.

The Guinness World Record attempt will take place on April 25 and serve as the kickoff event of the fourth annual Philadelphia Science Festival, which runs through May 3 and is presented by The Dow Chemical Company.

“We are thrilled to launch the 2014 Philadelphia Science Festival with an event that so wonderfully captures the spirit of science within our city and so beautifully highlights the numerous collaborations that, year after year, make the Festival a reality,” said Dr. Dennis M. Wint, president and CEO of The Franklin Institute. “This is an inspiring group of students, and a shining example of what it means to be leaders within the science community.” 

Attempting the record-breaking endeavor is a team of 45 freshmen engineering students from Drexel University and several students from the University of Pennsylvania. Adam Fontecchio, PhD, a professor in the College of Engineering and associate director of Drexel’s Expressive & Creative Interaction Technologies Center, is serving as the group’s advisor along with representatives from The Franklin Institute and other Philadelphia Science Festival partner organizations. 

Built into their year-long curriculum, the students are working together to design and assemble the machine in an effort to break the existing record for a 300-step Rube Goldberg machine, currently held by the Purdue Society of Professional Engineers. On April 25, the team will debut its Rube Goldberg machine, which will include more than 400 steps, in hopes of setting a new Guinness World Record.

“This venture illustrates the impressive abilities of our students and demonstrates many of the goals of the Philadelphia Science Festival – bringing science, technology and engineering into the public eye,” Fontecchio said. “This is a compelling challenge for our students and I know they will rise to meet it.  This is about setting a Guinness World Record, but more importantly, it is about showing how science, engineering and creativity can come together to produce something that celebrates both the challenges of creating technology and the intrinsic beauty of its design.”

The Rube Goldberg machine record attempt is just one of more than 100 events happening across the region as part of the 2014 Philadelphia Science Festival made possible by support from Dow Chemical. 

“The Philadelphia Science Festival brings science and curiosity to the crossroads of our city streets and neighborhoods,” said Justin Land, Northeast public affairs manager at Dow. “There is no greater stage to come together and celebrate science than right here in Philadelphia.

The citywide collaboration brings together 175 partner organizations from around Philadelphia to create nine exciting days, April 25-May 3, filled with events that showcase science and technology in everyday life. Highlights of the Festival include the Science Carnival After Hours, Mess Fest, Science Night at the Ballpark, Nerd Nite Brunch: Body vs. Booze, and the culminating event, Science Carnival on the Parkway. Through fun, science-related events for all ages, the Festival is part of a national movement to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers and build on Philadelphia’s rich history of innovation.