WHAT do you get if you give a bunch of first-year engineering students access to 100 paddle pop sticks, four tambourines, a party popper and a flying dog, among other items?
You get an incredibly complicated machine built to perform a very straightforward function: cutting a cake with a knife.
The clever students’ handiwork was on show last week when Charles Sturt University Bathurst held its annual Rube Goldberg event demonstration.
CSU Professor of Engineering Euan Lindsay said the event challenges first-year engineering students to build an overly complex solution for a simple problem.
“Working in teams of three, the students have to design and build at least four steps in the machine,” he said.
“This year they have incorporated tambourines, Jenga blocks, a party popper and a flying dog into their project.
“They have to work together with the rest of the group to make a single machine, building a sense of shared responsibility and co-operation in the group to make the machine work.”
Among the 18 students who took part in the challenge was Emmeline Rocks from Wagga Wagga, who was part of the group that created the first steps for the machine.
“It was fun to make, but nerve-racking,” she said. “Our part worked well, which was a relief.”
She said it took about a week to build their steps of the machine after a period of throwing ideas around.
“We trialled things, and if they did not work, we came up with a different solution,” she said.
Ms Rocks hopes to make a career in civil or water engineering, saying she likes the idea of “designing solutions to the world’s problems”.
Given the honour of flicking the first domino to activate the machine was a woman described as a global leader in engineering education, Professor Anette Kolmos from the University of Aalborg, Denmark.
“If you can create such a machine for cutting a cake, it proves that engineering is fun,” she said.
Ms Kolmos is at CSU Bathurst on a sabbatical.