Rube Goldberg machine champs pour cereal with clock, guitar

Rube Goldberg's world of whimsical mechanical inventions lives on as teams of students figure out the wildest ways to prepare a simple breakfast.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

When you want a bowl of cereal, you just reach for a box and pour your flakes or puffs into a bowl. But that won't win you a Rube Goldberg Machine Contest. For that, you're going to need a labyrinthine gizmo that goes through as many unnecessary steps as possible to get your cereal into a dish.

Hundreds of students participated in the Rube Goldberg contest's 30th anniversary during the live finals at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry over the weekend. 

The 2018 theme challenge was pouring a bowl of cereal, which stemmed from a partnership with cereal manufacturer General Mills, famous for Cheerios and Lucky Charms. The company recently released a series of cereal boxes that let people make a Rube Goldberg machine at home using just the packaging and household items like pencils, paper clips and tape.

Rube Goldberg was an American cartoonist and inventor famous for illustrating crazy, multi-step contraptions designed to do a simple task, like swatting a fly or opening a window. The contest started as a small event in 1988 and now welcomes teams from around the US that progress through regional competitions.

The Purdue Society of Professional Engineers team won the highest-level university division with an elaborate machine that includes a toy ukulele, a boxing glove, a windmill, flowing water and two large sections that rotate on gears. It's funny, but it's also an impressive technical achievement.

The Rho Gamma Phi team from Chatfield High School in Chatfield, Minnesota, took top honors in the high school division with a machine themed after a messy dorm room. The delightful apparatus features an alarm clock, guitar, red plastic cups and packages of instant ramen noodles.

"The students put their hearts and souls into their amazing Rube Goldberg Machines, and built STEM masterpieces that combined creativity and technical skills that would have made my grandfather proud," said Jennifer George, granddaughter of Rube Goldberg.

Batteries Not Included: The CNET team reminds us why tech is cool.

CNET en Español: Get all your tech news and reviews in Spanish.