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Hampton High team designs award-winning Chain Reaction Contraption

| Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013, 9:04 p.m.
Hampton High School seniors Mary Anna Ebbert, left, Arnold Bistoquet and Mitchell Worobij and freshman Jimmy Perkins presented the high school’s Rube Goldberg-style mechanism in the annual Chain Reaction Contraption Contest and brought home an award for best transportation system.
Bethany Hofstetter | Hampton Journal
Hampton High School seniors Mary Anna Ebbert, left, Arnold Bistoquet and Mitchell Worobij and freshman Jimmy Perkins presented the high school’s Rube Goldberg-style mechanism in the annual Chain Reaction Contraption Contest and brought home an award for best transportation system.

A spilled bottle of water set off a chain reaction that earned the Hampton High School team an award for best transportation system in the annual Chain Reaction Contraption Contest at the Carnegie Science Center earlier this month.

The contest challenges teams of high school students to create a Rube Goldberg-style machine that will complete an assigned task in 20 or more steps. The contest at the science center in Pittsburgh, sponsored by Westinghouse Electric Co., hosted 34 teams from local schools.

While Hampton High School has sent teams to the contest in the past, this was the first year for seniors Mary Anna Ebbert, Mitchell Worobij and Arnold Bistoquet and freshman Jimmy Perkins to participate.

The team created a contraption that started with an overturned bottle of water, which started to turn a water-mill structure that set off a chain reaction of 26 steps that eventually unrolled a letter to Santa Claus, which accomplished this year's goal of sending a message with the machine.

“The whole thing works because of principles of physics,” Worobij said. “I think we were a small percentage of teams that actually used physics terms to explain why it did what it did.”

The team worked hardest and was most proud of steps nine through 11, in which one ball bearing hit a series of magnetized ball bearings releasing the last ball bearing, which rolled along a level channel to set off the next steps in the contraption. The ball bearings moved in the way they did because of the principle of conservation of momentum, similar to the swinging balls in a Newton's cradle.

Team members said those steps helped earn them the award for best transportation system, sponsored by Bombardier Transportation.

With being new to the competition, the students were excited by the award.

Ebbert said the entire team had “wild reactions” after their disbelief melted away during the awards presentation.

“I didn't expect it because it was our first year,” Bistoquet said. “I was excited.”

The students, with help from other students enrolled in Advanced Placement physics and mentorship from physics teacher Jamie Pugliese, worked for more than three months on the contraption.

“The kids were incredibly dedicated and enthused,” said Ryan Scott, the engineering-design teacher who sponsored the team. “They put a tremendous amount of effort into their contraption. I'm very proud of my students.”

The team members said they overcame many challenges in creating their contraption and worked through the trial-and-error process. Next year, the graduating seniors plan to return during holiday breaks to encourage and mentor next year's team with the lessons they learned.

“It's better to make an attempt than to start and give up,” Perkins said.

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

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