GENEVA — If you’ve ever dashed out the door in the morning without stopping to eat breakfast, eighth-grader Tara Lee Smith may have just the thing you need — a cereal-making machine.
The contraption uses one pulley to drop cereal into a bowl and another to add the milk. Once these functions are complete, a spoon slides down an inclined plane into the bowl, and breakfast is served.
As part of a recent science project, Tara Lee and her classmates at St. Francis-St. Stephen School created Rube Goldberg compound machines. The projects could be built to perform any task of the students’ choosing, as long as the projects incorporated the use of three simple machines.
“I’m just always in a rush in the morning, so I thought, ‘What could I do to make cereal faster?'” Tara Lee said.
The eighth-graders, who demonstrated their projects for the rest of the school March 10, seemed to enjoy inventing their machines, said Mary Friday, junior-high science teacher. Each year her students invent machines after completing a unit on simple and compound machines. Their inventions are named after Rube Goldberg, a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, author and sculptor who was known for drawing intricate machines to perform simple tasks. His cartoons were syndicated and published in many newspapers in the 1940s, Friday said.
“He would draw these cartoons of machines doing everyday tasks,” Friday said. “The hardest way to do a simple task was to do a Rube Goldberg.”
Sierra Schaubert and Lucie Provost invented a machine that might come in handy for people who enjoy eating eggs in the morning but don’t like cracking the eggs. Sierra and Lucie created a machine — called Sunny Side Up — that breaks eggs with the help of a pulley, inclined plane and lever.
Sierra and Lucie said it took them about three days to build the machine, which they were inspired to build in part because they had an abundance of eggs available to break while testing it.
“We both have chickens at our houses,” Lucie explained.
Eighth-graders Anna Liberatore and Courtney Manion incorporated the cartoonist’s name into their invention — The Whoopi Goldberg Machine. This machine used a whoopee cushion, a pulley, an inclined plane and three different kinds of levers to blow out a candle.
Classmates Charlie Mosser and James Adle originally thought about creating a home-alarm system or a dog-food dispenser, but in the end they chose to invent a butter-slicing machine. Using a marble, an inclined plane and a system of levers, the machine dropped a butter knife onto a stick of butter, shaving off a slice of the stick.
When Emma Shaw was trying to decide what to create, her mother encouraged her to think of chores she normally does and then think of a way to make them more complicated. Emma is responsible for feeding her dog — a Labrador retriever and Rottweiler mixed breed named Jack — so she decided to invent a dog-food dispenser.
“It would be a skinny dog because it doesn’t get much food,” Emma explained after just a few pieces of dry dog food dropped from the dispenser during her demonstration.
Although some dogs might be less than pleased with her diet-inducing invention, Jack was more than happy to stick close to Emma while she built the dispenser.
“He kept getting all the stuff that fell on the floor,” she said.
Kali Struble and Kaitlyn Castner developed a scale version of a home burglar alarm. The alarm, which was in part inspired by the movie “Home Alone,” used several simple machines to drop marbles on the floor when a door was moved from the outside. Kaitlyn gave a dramatic, play-by-play monologue to demonstrate the machine’s importance to the younger students gathered around it.
“There’s a burglar. He’s outside your house. He opens the door, the marbles fall down. You hear the noise, you call the police,” she said.
Melissa O’Brien and Alexa Birchenough said their love of chocolate led them to create The Choco Crusher, which crushes Hershey bars. Likewise, sisters Devon and Shealyn Welch love Chinese food, especially fortune cookies, so they created a machine that smashes open the cookies to reveal the fortunes inside.
Shannon Nicholas decided to make a flower-watering machine because there happened to be a large vase of flowers sitting on the table in front of her while she was brainstorming, and Ryan Phillips and Liam Maher decided to invent a machine that turns on a light switch because their parents had extra supplies they could use.
Frank Hagadorn and Ben Maher’s invention, The Mr. Sprinklemeister, was very popular among the younger students, possibly because the machine put sprinkles on small ice-cream sundaes, which were then passed out to the gathering crowd.