Ramblers double up success in Rube Goldberg engineering challenge


8th graders pose with their Rube Goldberg project (l. to r. Carter Knuesel, Shawn Freyre, Jacob Moore, Zephyr Paulsen, Jack Slaggie, Jaxson Greshik, and William Kirk)

The 6th annual Engineering Machine Design Challenge was held in March at WSU. Two teams of Cotter students competed and were selected to advance to the tri-state championships which were held on April 21, in Anoka, MN.  It was the 2nd consecutive year a team from Cotter has advanced to the State competition under the direction of Cotter science teacher Eric Paulsen.

The Octo-Cats, Cotter’s 9th grade engineering team captured 2nd place out of 36 teams in their division at the State competition

“The competition was really cool, it was amazing to see all the projects from the other teams,”  Paulsen said.  “I was really proud of our kids. The 9th grade team took 2nd out of the 36th teams in the re-design category.  They are given a new element which they have to successfully incorporate into their machine in a 30 minute time frame with a judge watching over them the whole time. The worked together and worked the element in an ingenious way. It was pretty amazing.”

A t-shirt with the 2023 Engineering Machine Design Contest theme

Participating in the junior high team were The Martians: Zephyr Paulsen, Jacob Moore, William Kirk, Jaxson Greshik, Shawn Freyre, Jack Slaggie, and Carter Knuesel, all 8th-grade students.

Participating in the senior division are The Octo-Cats, 9th graders LeYan Thean, Daniel Gaedy, Nathan Burchill, Erica Beckman, Cooper Christopherson, and Everett Engler.

9th graders Nathan Burchill, LeYan Thean, Everett Engler, Cooper Christopherson, Erica Beckman and Daniel Gaedy

This year’s theme is “Into Orbit” and teams were challenged to design a Rube Goldberg Machine, which is sometimes called a chain reaction machine. Each team had to plan, build, iterate, and prototype in the most complex ways possible for 10-15 steps to complete.

The team loads a cargo van donated by Cotter parent Andy Kaiser. Transporting the complex and fragile Rube Goldberg machines is one of the challenges the competition presents to teams

The junior team built a three-stage rocket that launches a space probe as the final movement. The 9th-grade team built a Mars rover named “Rocky” and its finale is an electrical show with eyes and other parts lighting up after an electrolytic solution completes a 9-volt circuit.

Both teams put in hundreds of hours building their machines, recording their progress in a journal, and creating and presenting a story about how their processes went.

Because they were selected, earning 1st place in the senior division and 2nd in the junior division, the teams went back to work in the recently created TEAMS (technology, engineering, arts, math, science) Lab on the first floor of  St. Joseph Hall, refining and improving their ideas and presentations.

The trophies and certificates earned by Cotter’s Design Challenge teams

“The Science Dept. received a donation from a generous benefactor to outfit the TEAMS Lab with power tools, supplies, 3D printers, and all sorts of cool stuff to create the best “Maker Space” Cotter could dream up. Cotter’s TEAMS Lab is a premier creative space where all students can create, tinker, craft, engineer and make their ideas come to life,” said Mr. Paulsen, the coach of the Design Challenge teams.

If you are interested in starting a team for next year’s competition talk to Mr. Paulsen or stop by the TEAMS Lab to learn more.

A step in the process: parts for the Rube Goldberg machines are assembled and tested in the TEAMS Lab