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Freshman engineering students taught by visiting Assistant Prof. Dr. Stephen Johnston of the Plastics Engineering Department have created Rube Goldberg devices as part of a service-learning project for Lowell’s Tsongas Industrial History Center. The devices, named after American cartoonist Rube Goldberg (1883ߝ1970) who popularized them, are complex contraptions that perform simple tasks in multiple, convoluted steps.
For the class project, the students teamed up to develop devices that would demonstrate recycling, renewable energy and engineering. The devices were to be started by pouring up to a gallon of water into it, and use as many unique energy transfers as possible to separate recyclable steel, glass and plastic.
The students showed off their inventions in December, with the best ones being chosen by the Center to be part of the museum’s exhibit on power and energy. About 60,000 students from age 8 to 15 visit the Center each year.