SHERIDAN — Using mainly hot glue, spray paint and some elbow grease, Sheridan Junior High School students have assembled a unique, “Goonies”-themed contraption as part of an after-school program.
Guided by SJHS science teacher Ryan Fuhrman and with help from a grant, SJHS students will compete in the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest for the first time this year. Goldberg was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American cartoonist who sketched absurd contraptions that accomplished simple tasks in complicated and humorous ways. The online competition gives out $500 for first place and $250 for second place.
The group, composed of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders, has to submit a video of the contraption successfully working by the end of the week. They are extremely close to a successful run but are still tweaking a few different spots.
Per competition rules, the machine needs to be less than 300 cubic feet and have at least 10 separate sections to accomplish the task of filling a bowl of cereal. The SJHS machine has 13 different sections triggered by different mechanisms. Some are computer-programmed; some come as a result of a marble hitting something; and others come as a result of water filling a small pot. The final step involves a ship rolling along a mechanical track, causing a box of Cap’n Crunch to pour into a bowl.
The project began last fall and work has ramped up in recent months. A total of 14 students have worked on it, with six members forming the group’s core. Students chose the “Goonies” theme last fall, and all 13 sections are related to plot points in the classic 1985 movie. The group watched chunks of the movie to think of scenes that could make portions of the machine.
“Different scenes can become different components, and then the challenge for these guys has been how to stitch them together,” Fuhrman said. “It’s been a lot of problem-solving, which has been great. I really like the part where it’s art plus the engineering.”
The group name is “Roobies Never Die,” a combination of the Rube Goldberg name and motto of the kids in “The Goonies.” The SJHS students refer to their invention as “the machine” or “the thing.” The students meet Tuesdays and Thursdays and have worked many long days perfecting their machine.
“The night that we stayed until 8 (p.m.) was probably the most fun night ever, because we just got a lot of stuff done and we got to build the Lego ship and we did half the machine that night, basically,” eighth-grader Rye Bullick said.
Bullick — who Fuhrman called the mechanical genius of the group — built most of the computer and mechanical portions of the machine.
“Every day we’d grab a handful of hot glue sticks and we’d have an extension cord out here and we were just piecing and parting everything together,” seventh-grader Shannon Crump said.
The students clearly had passion for the project, as they eagerly described the different features and explained how they worked through some of the difficulties. The programming and timing were challenging. The group built a lot of sections separately and had to come up with creative ways to connect them.
“Each solution to one problem kind of creates a new one,” Fuhrman said.
As the group nears completion of its contraption, Fuhrman hopes to continue the program going forward and use this year’s project to catapult a long line of similar machines built at SJHS.