Carnegie Science Center Contest Tests High School Students’ Engineering Skills

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Carnegie Science Center was filled with Rube Goldberg-style contraptions Friday.

High school students put their engineering talents to work, creating complicated mechanisms, complete with storylines.

The Chain Reaction Contraption contest brings competitors from 35 high schools to Carnegie Science Center. Each contraption is required to tell a story using at least 20 steps. And the judges are counting.

STEM programming director Linda Ortenzo says it’s good training for students.

“They work in teams. They have to communicate well,” she said. “They have to be able to be innovative and creative in what they do. And these are skills that are important, not just in engineering, but in any field today.”

The contraptions are judged on how they function and creativity of design.

One of the entries is the Rube Goldberg Casino Heist Contraption. It’s reminiscent of the film “Ocean’s Eleven,” though the contraption is even more complicated than the movie heist.

A team from Cornell High School takes an innovative approach to real events.

“The project was supposed to represent the hard fought battles of World War II,” says eleventh grader Olivia Piccolo. “First of all, we pull the pin on the grenade. The pin releases the ball. The magnet hits the plane. The pendulum is now started. The ball opens the door. There goes the plane.”

It takes 25 steps to finally raise the flag. By the way, Rube Goldberg was an American cartoonist who, according to Linda Ortenzo, “looked at things in probably the most complicated way, for some of the simplest tasks.”

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