Curb Scholars, Creative Campus residential fellows flex imagination on Rube Goldberg machines

Curb Scholars and Creative Campus residential fellows convened to build Rube Goldberg machines Aug. 19. (photo courtesy of The Curb Center at Vanderbilt)

Vanderbilt’s Curb Scholars and Creative Campus residential fellows convened for a creative practice opening retreat Aug. 19 at the E. Bronson Ingram Studio Arts Center.

The students flexed their creative muscles by building Rube Goldberg machines that complicated the simple act of putting a bottle or can into a recycling bin. Named for the American cartoonist and inventor, Rube Goldberg machines are deliberately over-engineered devices that perform a very simple task in an overly complex fashion, usually including a chain reaction.

Five teams of students had approximately six hours to design and develop their machines, with the time constraint adding to the creative challenge of engaging the issue in a non-routine way. Lori Troxel, associate professor of the practice of civil and environmental engineering, gave an introduction to simple mechanics to help kick off the day.

“I wanted to provoke conversation around recycling while also offering our students the opportunity to engage in the rapid experimentation required in creating Rube Goldberg machines,” said Elizabeth Long Lingo, director of the Curb Scholars program. “The students experienced the highs and lows – the ‘messiness’ of the creative process – all along the way.”

The Curb Creative Campus Initiative plans to scale up the workshop into a campus-wide Rube Goldberg competition and conversation in spring 2012, tying into the theme of sustainability, which many faculty, students and staff are exploring this academic year through the American Studies Sustainability Project.

Click here to view more photos of the students’ Rube Goldberg machines.