Students work in teams and put their knowledge and skills in maths, science, design and engineering to the test in the creation of a ‘spaghetti machine’ — the Italian term for an overly complex machine or device that is used to perform a relatively simple task.
This contest is coordinated by the Melbourne School of Engineering.
Engineering and spaghetti
So if you’re building a machine that’s overly complex and therefore somewhat inefficient, what does it have to do with engineering (which is all about finding the most practical and efficient way to solve a problem)? The answer is that the machine is really designed to entertain and amaze, as well as perform the set task.
There are still plenty ways to demonstrate the basic principles of engineering, including the methods of approaching design, testing, construction, and the team and project management that make a successful machine. Of course there’s also the chance to incorporate some pretty cool elements from engineering disciplines including structural, electrical and electronic, mechanical, and chemical engineering.
Rube Goldberg and ‘The Self-Operating Napkin’…
The US inventor and cartoonist Rube Goldberg was a master of Spaghetti Machine ideas, so much so that they are sometimes also known as ‘Rube Goldberg machines’.