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Mega Rube Goldberg gizmo: 300 steps to pop balloon

A Purdue University team outdoes itself with a record-breaking device that peels fruit, makes hamburgers, and toasts bread. There's no app for that.

The contraption has to peel apples and juice oranges in order to pop the balloon.
Andy Jessop/Purdue University

Blowing up a balloon yourself is boring. It's always better to spend more than 5,000 hours building a machine that can do it for you in an extremely absurd fashion.

The Purdue Society of Professional Engineers recently broke its own record for creating the most complex Rube Goldberg machine with a 300-step dazzler that goes through many, many motions just to blow up a balloon. And then pop it.

The entry failed to win the latest Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, which honors the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist with a gizmo that accomplishes a simple task in a convoluted way. It did, however, break the Purdue Society of Professional Engineers' own Guinness record, according to Purdue University.

"We did some bold things with this machine that have never even been attempted that probably startled judges, competitors and spectators," a university release quoted team president Zach Umperovitch as saying. "But we were hungry, and we were going to go large or stay home."

The video below is lamentably lousy and fails to do justice to this marvel. But you can get some idea of how complex it is.

It included a boiler system, a locomotive-style drive system, an antique train whistle, and rotating paddlewheels that featured hidden steps in the domino chain required to pop the balloon.

The contraption "accomplished every task ever assigned in the competition's 25-year history, including peeling an apple, juicing an orange, toasting bread, making a hamburger, changing a light bulb, loading a CD, and sharpening a pencil," the university noted.

The team's previous record was based on a machine that took 244 steps to water a flower while illustrating the history of the world.

One wonders if the Earth itself isn't the ultimate Rube Goldberg machine, created for some mundane purpose like heating God's coffee. Global warming, anyone?