Picking up a bar of soap can be a simple task, or a complicated one, if you ask Briarcliff Middle School eighth grader Edmund Tsou. Together with his brother, Todd fifth grader Tristan, they have built a Rube Goldberg Machine that drops a bar of soap into your hand and the pair have entered the National Rube Goldberg Online Contest.
A Rube Goldberg Machine is named after a famous cartoonist by that name and is designed to perform a simple task in a complicated way. Each year a new task is selected and this year, because of the Coronavirus, dropping a bar of soap in your hand seems an apt task.
Edmund and Tristan, with the help of their parents, spent spring break creating a machine that drops a bar of soap into the hand. While that seems a daunting task, according to middle school science teacher Jodi Schearer, Edmund has plenty of experience.
“Edmund has been in the Science and Engineering Club for three years, building Rube Goldberg machines every year,” she said.
Due to the school closure, the original plan to work with club members on a machine was cancelled and Ms. Shearer assigned the project for extra credit during spring break.
“We bounced around ideas and made small parts and designs for about a week, on an off,” said Edmund. “It took about two days to assemble everything, and another day to run the machine and the video,” he added.
The boys used household items for their machine and did not have to purchase anything from a store.
“We also used LEGOs, paper, tape and Velcro. We did make a few parts and prototypes during our planning stage but most of the steps were all built at once,” Edmund said. “Most of the work was done by my brother and I. My dad of course pitched in many helpful ideas and helped us when we needed it,” Edward explained.
Building the machine did not come without challenges and it took hard work and patience.
“The machine had a few inconsistent steps and the long domino chain was a huge pain to reset, so we ended up doing about 50 runs before everything worked,” Edmund admitted.
Luckily, having three years of Science and Engineering Club experience under his belt proved very useful.
“The experiences I had at the Science and Engineering Club helped us to maximize efficiency and prioritize which things had to be done first,” Edmund said.
With his father’s help, Edmund edited the video, part of which was featured in an online article by Business Insider. He has submitted his video and is now eager to receive the results.
“They come out mid-June so we have to wait until then to get them,” he said.
We wish the Tsou brothers the best of luck in the competition!
To watch the video please visit the Briarcliff School District Facebook page.