Gone fishing with Rube Goldberg

New Prague High School students decided to go fishing with a Rube Goldberg device they designed and made. They displayed it Thursday, Feb. 7, at the national Rube Goldberg Competition at Minnesota State University, Mankato. The College of Science Engineering & Technology sponsored the event.

Involved in the project were senior captain Troy Meyer, senior Shawn Maddaus, junior Adam Ilkka, sophomore Brian Prchal, teacher advisor Rich Wilson and his son Jake, who was a junior member. Rich said it was the first time, they know of, that New Prague participated.

The competition is named after cartoonist Rube Goldberg, who often drew complex devices that would perform simple tasks. In that spirit the contest had high school teams build a contraption that at the least had to have 20 connected steps. This year’s device had to hammer a nail. Each team is allowed three tries with two of them used for judging.

Besides having to hammer a nail, points were awarded for number of steps, complexity, having a theme, being funny, verbally describing the project, and how well a team worked together. The project is a great fit for students interested in design, construction trades, media broadcast, and the arts.

"Our community should be very proud of the four student team that dreamed up a 31-step ice fishing themed machine that culminated in a nine-hammer chorus line," said Rich. "When Troy was asked by a judge why nine, he responded, ‘Hey, if one is good, nine is better!’"

The judge smiled and wrote down notes accordingly on the "Fishing in Minnesota" machine.

Prchal gave the step by step description of the device, which included an ice auger, shovel and bait cage. He, Maddaus and Ilkka also provided background pictures. Ilkka also did a narration in Ole and Sven accents and part of the soundtrack was the polka "Fishing Minnesota" by New Prague's Novotny Trio.

The project can be no bigger than 6x6x6-foot. The team began construction in January and built it in Rich’s fifth grade classroom at Falcon Ridge Elementary School. The team had a bit of stress when they disassembled the device, put it into a trailer, hauled it to Mankato and then reassembled it on the second floor of the Student Union Ballroom.

Of the more than 20 teams, Rich thought New Prague had the best theme and ending. "There was no other team that hammered nine nails in a row, and when you use one pound hammers that build up to a two and half pound sledge (hammer), it was quite a finish."

Each participant received a T-shirt and patch. New Prague's team didn't make it to the finals, but they were awarded the first ever "What Was That?" trophy. The award was given when the "Prague-Ites" created artificial snow within the ballroom.

"A truly memorable accident that left Adam chalky white and others laughing," said Rich.