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STEM students get to show off their skills
Simple task made in complex in contest
Engineer WEB
Andrew Rancon, from left, Paul Cromer, Michael Sloan and Austin Flynn set up their device for a STEM Academy challenge Saturday at Forsyth Central High. - photo by Autumn Vetter

While hammering a nail may be a relatively simple task, a group at Forsyth Central High School competed to see who could make it the most complex.

Students in the school’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, Academy took part Saturday in a challenge called “Hammer Time.”

Those in the engineering and biotechnology programs worked together in teams of about 10 to design, build and demonstrate Rube Goldberg devices with which to hammer a nail.

The devices take a simple task and add numerous steps to make it as complicated as possible.

Bill Schuyler, one of the STEM instructors, said students were given the assignment in August, with small tasks to complete throughout the semester to ensure they stayed on track.

“Today is a competition and we’ve got judges from Hansgrohe and Siemens who teamed up with three of our teachers to evaluate these guys,” he said.

“The main reason we chose to do this … was to build teamwork and boost communications between two different categories — biotech and engineering — by coming together to get to a final stage.”

Fifteen teams took part. Each device had a different theme such as all-American or 1980s.

“We did a circus theme, so everything’s under the big top,” said sophomore Kelly Rasmovich.

One of her teammates, Chase Hubbard, explained how the machine used everything from an electric train and dominoes to plastic toy trapeze artists and seals to eventually move the hammer to hit the nail.

According to Hubbard, “The train is turned on and it hits a cog that hits a Lego wall that turns on a fan that hits a cog that pushes over dominoes.”

From there, he said, the dominoes “hit a ping pong ball that hits more dominoes that hit a trapeze artist that hits more dominoes that hit the golf ball.”

The golf ball then “goes down and pops a balloon and also hits wooden pieces that move the seal … so a lever goes down, which causes the hammer to be released and hit the nail.”

Rasmovich said the team changed its theme a few times before settling on the circus idea in September.

“We did a lot of the work over Thanksgiving break,” she said. “We spent about three days, about four hours each over the break. We also met at [restaurants] a lot to just come up with different steps to make it interesting and not so serious and just have fun with it.”

Kali Mathews said her team’s device used items like marbles, toilet paper rolls and radios to reach the end task.

“It was a lot of work but a lot of fun,” she said.