How many steps does it take to change a flashlight’s batteries?

Depends. If you’re the folks who won the 22nd annual Purdue Rube Goldberg Machine Contest then it takes around 125 steps carried out in the most inefficiently automated way possible:

“When a lot of people see a Rube Goldberg contest, they think of it as something they couldn’t do,” said Kevin Hollingsworth, co-captain of the winning team. “Going to outer space is also something a lot of people think of as impossible for them to do to. We wanted to bring the two together in a way that people might see both of them as something they could try.”

Teams in the competition, which took place in the Purdue Armory on the university’s West Lafayette, Ind., campus, had to create machines that would replace batteries in a flashlight using a minimum of 20 steps that employed principles of engineering and physics. All of teams used more than the required number of steps, but the winning machine’s 125 were by far the most.

“Every year we try to build the most complex machine in the contest,” said Hollingsworth, a senior in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics from Zionsville, Ind. “This year we started planning major steps in September – before we even knew what the task would be – so we could add more steps. This is the most complex machine we have entered.”

The win earned the Purdue Society of Professional Engineers the right to represent Purdue on Saturday, April 9, in the national contest, which also will be in the Purdue Armory. The team also won the People’s Choice Award, which was voted on by the more than 400 audience members.

You can view a quicktime of the winning machine in action by clicking here.

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