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Drexel University’s Wacky Science Machine Fails To Achieve World Record

(The elaborate device needed a few nudges to complete its overly-complex procedure to perform a simple task: raise a "Philadelphia Science Festival" flag.  Photo by Paul Kurtz)

(The elaborate device needed a few nudges to complete its overly-complex procedure to perform a simple task: raise a “Philadelphia Science Festival” flag. Photo by Paul Kurtz)

Paul Kurtz Paul Kurtz
Paul Kurtz is a Philadelphia native who has been working as a reporter...
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By Paul Kurtz

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The 2014 Philadelphia Science Festival began today, with a team of Drexel University engineering students attempting to get into the Guinness Book of World Records.

More than 40 students of Prof. Allen Fontecchio have been working since December on an elaborate Rube Goldberg-type contraption.  (Think of the board game “Mousetrap,” then add hundreds of additional elements to it.)

“We have lots of marbles and ball bearings and dominos,” Fontecchio explains.  “The students have built switches and levers, and programmed circuits.  There’s even Lego pieces in there.”

The machinery has 317 elements in all.  And it was big enough to break the record of 300 elements, set by Purdue University.

If it had worked.

But this gizmo fell short on its maiden run, no thanks to more than a few wayward marbles and other components that failed to launch.

“And so they helped it along, which means it wasn’t a world record but it still went all the way to completion,” Prof. Fontecchio notes, which earned a nice round of applause as the final element raised a green Philadelphia Science Festival flag.

“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” — Thomas Edison