The 2013 Rube Goldberg Machine Contest is now open for registration by international collegiate, high school, and middle school teams. The 2013 contest — “Hammer A Nail” — is designed to encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills in a nontraditional learning environment. Students will design and construct Rube Goldberg Machines (RGMs), which are overly complex contraptions, using chain-reaction steps designed to accomplish the simple task of hammering a nail. The contest aims to inspire young minds through innovation, humor, and unconventional thinking.

Rube Goldberg (1884-1970) was a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist best known for his wacky inventions. His cartoons appeared daily for nearly 50 years and his popularity made him a cultural icon. Today, the term “Rube Goldberg” is often used an adjective and invoked daily to describe an overly complicated effort to accomplish a singular goal. Recent examples include the mission to Mars, cleanup of the BP oil spill in the Gulf, and the election process. Rube’s influence on some of the great creative minds of the last century, especially in Hollywood, is also significant. Both Steven Spielberg and Tim Burton have been inspired by his work and employ Rube Goldberg sequences in many of their films.

Contest teams must include at least three members. Students have a total of six weeks to design and build their robots and will then compete with their machines at local events across the U.S. Judges note that the best RGMs emulate their namesake by using a variety of everyday items in a whimsical way to create a series of steps to accomplish the simple task set forth for the annual competition. Most importantly, say judges, the best RGMs make people laugh.

Several component manufacturers supply parts to the contest each year. As one example, this year's teams will have the opportunity to use igubal flange and pillow block bearings, as well as DryLin linear slides and aluminum shafting, donated by igus Inc., East Providence, R.I.

To learn more about Rube Goldberg and the 2013 competition, visit rubegoldberg.com.