EngSoc Events Part 3

Donovan Maudsley - 3B Mechanical
Posted on: February 20, 2017

Hey all welcome back to the column where I write about events that I went to and you probably didn’t, hence you reading this article. I wish I could say I was writing this from the warmth of a hot sunny beach in Punta, but sadly I had to stay in the great white north this holiday to study for my 4 midterms after the break. Yes, count yourselves lucky if you get a hell week because I’d kill to be reading actual books instead of textbooks right now.

As previously noted, we’ve reached half-way through the term, meaning profs trying to scare us into taking their courses more seriously, and that I’ve stopped going to the gym. Just kidding, I never went to the gym. It also means less events for people to attend, because really, who’s going to events when you could be at home in your PJs crying about the direction your life is headed after procrastinating for 48 solid hours and coming to the realization that you have your exam in less than 12. Although there were some fun events which took place since my last update, I too fell prey to midterm fever and was able to only attend one.

With National Engineering Month, or March as it’s sometimes known, just around the corner of this reading week, it’s time to look forward to some of the things we’ll be doing at Waterloo to celebrate, Starting with the first event, Build a Rube Goldberg!

Each year the Engineering Student Societies Council of Ontario (ESSCO) organizes a Rube Goldberg to light the CN Tower purple in honour of engineers all across this great nation, or something like that. The event is actually pretty cool, it combines Rube Golbergs from Universities across the province to eventually connect to the Rube in the foyer of the CN Tower, where a special button gets pressed to light up the world’s (second) tallest building a very exciting colour.

Of course, you may be reading this and saying, “So what exactly is a Rube Goldberg, Gabrielle?” Which would be a is valid question because it has a very strange and misleading name. There are some pretty awesome examples out there; one cool one is the OK Go music video for This Too Shall Pass. I’ll wait while you go look that up. Simply put, a Rube Goldberg machine is a series of different, overly complicated functions that combine to complete one, usually fairly simple task. This can be anything from lighting a match, to calling a phone – which is what our Rube Goldberg had to do.

You see, the way ESSCO has the Rube Goldbergs from universities across the province combine together to light the CN Tower is through phones. Our machine had to start when my phone was called, and had to end by calling another university… so that their Rube could start, etc. until reaching whichever school is at the CN Tower. Now of course I don’t have to tell you how totally impossible that would be to organize logistically, so it’s more of a cool way to fit the videos we make together than anything else.

It’s been a few years since Waterloo has participated in this particular event, which I thought a total shame because who doesn’t want to build a Rube Goldberg!? How young and naïve I was to think such a thing. As someone who had never made a Rube Goldberg before, organizing the construction and filming of such a high profile one as this was a tall task that for which I did not realize I was unprepared. But, as one of two NEM directors for the term, I was determined to see this through. (As was my co-director Liam, also un-learned in the ways of Rube Goldberg construction.)

If we had more experience, we might have known our budget and construction team were too small, our design too unspecific, and our equipment too faulty. Ignoring all that, it was on a cold Friday afternoon in POETS that we determined engineering students set about building our first ever Rube Goldberg machine.

There were some stipulations imposed on the construction by ESSCO that made things a little more complicated. For one, there could be no motorized or electronic elements. That meant elements using an Arduino was out, as well as a fun idea I had that used a fan. It was back to basics using a lot of cardboard, duct tape, balls of all shapes and sizes, tons of string, and some Hot Wheels cars because why not?

Even when the whole team was there, as well as some extra people who were hanging out in POETS and took pity on us, the going was very slow. In all, I estimate that just building the machine took us upwards of 5 hours. Then we had to film. If you are so blissfully ignorant as myself to believe that just because every component of your dynamic puzzle works individually, that they will work together in harmonious unity, do not read further. Remain ignorant. For those for you who know where this story takes a ghastly turn, keep reading and laugh at us fools.

Filming the Rube Goldberg machine took us almost an additional 2 hours. Everything would work perfectly, and suddenly at the last second, something that had never gone wrong before would go wrong and the whole take would need to be scrapped. Over and over again we set up the start, in and of itself a difficult thing to do, and over and over again something would go wrong. Even the dominoes refused to fall. How is that possible? The answer is you just don’t use dominoes in a Rube Goldberg machine. It is just not done.

As I am not still in POETS, we did finish the machine, though some strategic splicing of the videos may have taken place… If you’re free in a few weeks on Friday March 24, come to POETS to check out the screening of the video and maybe get some popcorn.

I hope you’re all enjoying your break and I hope to see you at EngSoc Goes Bowling on March 3rd. Be there or be boring, it’s going to rock!