Are you ready to be a spaghetti engineer? Year 10 students from across Victoria with an interest in maths, science, engineering and project management are invited to represent their schools in our annual Amazing Spaghetti Machine Contest. Teams will compete to build the most amazing ‘spaghetti machine’ — an overly complex device that performs a relatively simple task.
Keen to get involved? Here’s all the information you need to know about this year’s contest.
Find out when registrations open and close, when the task will be announced, and the date of the contest.Find out more
Find out the task for the contest. See the list of schools competing in this year’s contest.Find out more
Information on how to design your machine, how the contest is judged and what prizes you can win.Find out more
How to enter
Find out more about how to get a team together and get registered for the contest.Find out more
Represent your school in our Amazing Spaghetti Machine Contest.
Year 10 students from across Victoria are invited to participate in our annual Amazing Spaghetti Machine Contest. Students work in teams and put their maths, science, engineering and project management skills to the test in the creation of a ‘spaghetti machine’ — an overly complex device
Teams have five months to design, plan and build their machines before demonstrating their creations on-campus at the University of Melbourne on judging day!
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To see some example spaghetti machines in action, view our Spaghetti workshop videos.
Engineering and spaghetti
So if you’re building a machine that’s overly complex and therefore somewhat inefficient, what does it have to do with engineering (which is all about finding the most practical and efficient way to solve a problem)? The answer is that the machine is really designed to entertain and amaze, as well as perform the set task.
There are still plenty of ways to demonstrate the basic principles of engineering, including the methods of approaching design, testing, construction, and the project management and teamwork that make a successful machine. Of course there’s also the chance to incorporate some pretty cool elements from engineering disciplines including structural, electrical and electronic, mechanical, and chemical engineering.
For more spaghetti machine inspiration, check out US inventor and cartoonist Rube Goldberg’s ideas.
Rube Goldberg and ‘The Self-Operating Napkin’…
One such concept by Goldberg was ’The Self-Operating Napkin’ — activated when the soup spoon (A) is raised to mouth, pulling string (B) and thereby jerking ladle (C) which throws cracker (D) past parrot (E). Parrot jumps after cracker and perch (F) tilts, upsetting seeds (G) into pail (H). Extra weight in pail pulls cord (I), which opens and lights automatic cigar lighter (J), setting off skyrocket (K) which causes sickle (L) to cut string (M) and allow pendulum with attached napkin to swing back and forth, thereby wiping chin.
The US inventor and cartoonist Rube Goldberg was a master of Spaghetti Machine ideas, so much so that they are sometimes also known as ‘Rube Goldberg machines’.
Welcome to the Spaghetti Workshop, where you can learn more about what it takes to plan and build a spaghetti machine, catch video episodes of tips and tricks, and get inspiration for your creation from some of the other fantastic machines from around the world.
Tip: Don’t get too complicated! Plan what you think you can achieve in the time you’ve got!
Q & As
What do you need to create a spaghetti machine?
- A team that’s prepared and able to work together
- A space that you can build your machine in (and preferably one that allows you to leave it set up while you work on it)
- Access to some basic tools and equipment to build with
- Enough time set aside to work on it.
The team will also need a teacher or staff member from the school to act as the supervisor for the project.
Finally, you’ll need plenty of imagination, creativity, and a willingness to experiment and improvise in order to come up with solutions!
How many people do I need to form a spaghetti machine team?
We recommend between 6–10 people per team, but of course the number of team members is ultimately up to you. A good way of determining what you need would be to work out how many steps you want to include in your machine (minimum 10), how much time you’ll have to work on the machine, and how much work/time that means per person. Remember, more team members mean less work per person, but too many members and you might have a hard time organising and agreeing amongst yourselves. Above all, make sure that those team members you do include are prepared to stick around for the whole project!
How do we start creating a spaghetti machine?
Before you get down to hammering things together it’s probably a good idea to do a bit of research into other types of machines that have been created (check out our Video gallery) and to have a chat about what you want to do, and what you think you can manage. You’ll also want to think about what your resources are (people, space, equipment, time, skills, etc …) and how to organise yourselves to make best use of them. This might include allocating tasks for individual members, a schedule for what needs to be done by when (very important!), and how you want to keep track of who’s working on what.
What sort of materials will my team need?
The great thing about spaghetti machines is that they can be made from just about anything. Wood, old bits of metal or plastic, toys, recycled gadgets or machine parts, everyday household items … you name it. We’re interested in seeing how inventive you can be, including your ability to recycle or re-purpose existing objects or materials for your design. Just keep in mind that whatever you use needs to be safe (for you to work with and for spectators to look at).
When and how do I get the voucher to buy materials?
To help you with the construction of your machine, we’ll send your team (via your nominated staff supervisor) a voucher for Bunnings Warehouse. This voucher is intended to help you source bits and pieces that you might otherwise struggle to find. Once a team is confirmed as taking part in the contest the voucher will be mailed to your school and marked to the attention of your staff supervisor.
Check out this gallery of videos showing machines we think are pretty awesome. Some are instructional, some are inspirational, and some are just plain funny.