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Students Team Up to Mix Science, Fun — and Mastermind Inventions

The annual competition at Riverhead High School combines engineering, science, and creativity.

Science and fun became synonymous recently at Riverhead High School as students participated in an annual invention-making competition.

Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, sculptor and artist Rube Goldberg was best known for his inventions. According to the Merriam World Dictionary definition given on the Rube Goldberg website, a Rube Goldberg is "a comically involved, complicated invention, laboriously contrived to perform a simple operation."

Rube Goldberg competitions have become popular in high schools; in December, Riverhead High School held its third annual Rube Goldberg competition. The goal of the student-created projects was to make a hammer hit a nail as the final act in a process that involved at least 20 steps.

Projects are judged on a 100 point system, according to national Rube Goldberg judging standards, which include such complexity of the project, the use of recognizable, everyday items in a creative, unique, or funny way, the visual and physical ingenuity of the contraption, and whether or not it actually works. 

Competitors included teams from the 9th grade Smart Physics classes and the Regents level AP classes.

“The 'wow' factor is as almost as important as anything else,” physics teacher Greg Wallace, who coordinated the competition along with fellow teachers Brian Cunningham and Kim Skinner, said.

The winning first place Rube Goldberg project in the Smart Physics category was entitled  “Six Heroes in the City,” and was designed and executed by Bryce McKissick, Lauren Mastropolo, Mike Harris, Brian Clark, and Haley Rudnicki.

In the Regents AP category, first place went to “Chain Reaction,” built by Kaitlyn Doherty, Sarah Freeborn, Jose Chinchilla, Jordan Tapley and Kathleen Farnam.

Later this year, winners will participate in a regional competition at Garden City’s Cradle of Aviation Museum, where, according to Mr. Wallace, a win would qualify the team to compete in a national competition in Detroit. Riverhead High School students have placed second and third at the competition for the past two years.

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