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Santiago Canyon College STEM Club Wins Best Rookie Award at National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest

​Santiago Canyon College’s (SCC) STEM club won Best Rookie award at the Rube Goldberg Machine National Contest: Division III Saturday, April 9, 2016. The contest took place at Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus, Ohio.

After winning the regional contest held at the Santa Monica Pier on Saturday, March 12, SCC’s STEM Club set its sights on the nationals in Ohio. By definition a Rube Goldberg machine is a machine that performs a very simple task in a very complicated manner. A chain reaction occurs where one component triggers the next component and so on, ultimately triggering the final component – the task of the machine. This year, the goal for all Rube Goldberg machines nationwide was to open an umbrella.

According to Cindy Swift, SCC physics instructor and STEM Club advisor, the club’s goal was to have one clean run through requiring no interventions from the team. From the regional contest to the national contest the team had been making some mechanical and aesthetic improvements to ensure their goal of a clean run.

At the national contest each team had time prior to the competition to work on the machine. During each team’s turn they had two runs with an eight-minute reset window in between runs. SCC’s STEM Club’s goal was achieved through its first run. Then the second run only had one intervention. “We were a success by our standards,” said Swift, “If you asked me what makes the winning team best, I would say experience.”

Two club members who participated in the contest, Rita Leger and Amanda Alvarado, said that their favorite part was watching every team’s machine run. Alvarado said, “I would get so excited to see how amazing and complex their creations were, and I understood that each competitor put so much effort and heart into their machines.” Mechanical engineering major Leger is a first year participant in both STEM Club and this contest. Alvarado is a biology major and has been a part of STEM Club since starting at SCC.

Another team member, bioengineering major Angelica Escobar, participated in the Rube Goldberg competition for the first time this year. Escobar talked about being creative and that most going into this competition believe they are not creative but once people start to talk, the creativity just flows. “When you’re around people trying to do the same thing, it’s really easy to get ideas going,” said Escobar.

The machine was driven to Ohio from Orange, California by Swift’s husband, Alan Swift while the team flew. The team arrived at 7:00 p.m. and worked on their machine until they were kicked out at 10 p.m. that night. The next day they went to work on the machine at 8:30 a.m. and worked until 11 a.m. prior to the competition. The competition started at noon. Each machine must have a unifying theme. SCC’s theme for the machine was science fiction/action adventure movies. The machine paid homage to The Matrix, Back to the Future, The Empire Strikes Back, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The machine itself is five feet wide by five and eight feet high.

SCC’s STEM Club received over $5,000 in donations to fund the trip. Some of the donations were from Hathaway Dinwiddie Construction Company, Society of Manufacturing Engineers Chapter 233, and the SCC Foundation. SCC’s mathematics and science departments also held a bake sale to help fund the trip. Donations also came from a crowdfunding webpage that was set up by the STEM Club.

For more information about the competition, visit