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Hempfield Area team's engineering prowess captures the gold

| Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, 6:23 p.m.
Kim Stepinsky | for the Tribune-Review
Hempfield Area High School junior Jonathan 'Jon' Beranek (left) and freshman Margaret 'Maggie' Vanderhoff prepare to demonstrate 'Rube's Arcade' for the school board.
Kim Stepinsky | for the Tribune-Review
Maggie Vanderhoff, (front), senior Hope Buskirk (left) and Jonathan Beranek (right) demonstrate the winning contraption.
Kim Stepinsky | for the Tribune-Review
(from right, counter clockwise), Hempfield Area High School freshman, Maggie Vanderhoff, junior, Jonathan Beranek, and senior, demonstrate the 'Rubes Arcade', during a meeting of the Hempfield Area school board, held at the Hempfield administration building on Monday evening, February 10, 2014. The contraption landed the Hempfield gifted team a first place award in the Chain Reaction Contraption Contest at the Carnegie Science Center on December 13, 2013.
Kim Stepinsky | for the Tribune-Review
(from left, clockwise), Hempfield Area High School seniors Katie McFadden and Hope Buskirk, junior Jonathan Beranek and freshman, Maggie Vanderhoff demonstrate 'Rube's Arcade,' a 28-step contraption that pays homage to the heroes of pinball and video games.

Gifted students at Hempfield Area High School brought home the gold from the Chain Reaction Contraption Contest at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh.

They displayed the winning “Rube's Arcade” on Monday to the school board.

The 28-step contraption begins with a launching device similar to those found on every pinball machine.

And then it's off to the finale — a card that slides down to read “Game Over” and “Thank you for visiting Rube's Arcade.”

Along the way, it's sheer genius with a little bit of whimsy — think Donkey Kong attached to a popsicle stick, a Pac-Man board and Yoshi, a green character from the Super Mario series.

A spinning roller blade sets off one chain reaction that drops Alka-Seltzer into water. That creates carbon-dioxide gas that travels through a tube to press down on the popsicle stick.

Later, some marbles take a roller coaster ride. Air released from a balloon sets Pac-Man off along the maze. And, of course, a mouse trap is involved along the way.

The Hempfield students claimed the top prize in December. The year before, the school's team placed second. In 2011, Hempfield won fourth place after finishing sixth the year before.

Mentoring the team was teacher Tom Harden, the man behind the Hempfield teams, and Westinghouse engineers Tim Johnson, Phil Hawkins and John Vanderhoff and Vocollect engineer Brent Nichols.

On the team are seniors Chase Brannon, Rebecca Donohue, Katie McFadden and Kelly O'Neill; juniors Jon Beranek and KatieVanderhoff; sophomores Timothy Brannon, Crystal Colinear, Morgan Johnson and Chase Pastor, and freshmen Anthony Buskirk, Rachel Capar, Benjamin Lawson, Jacob Mursch, Colin Phillips, Margaret Vanderhoff and Tate Yawitz.