About the Amazing Spaghetti Machine Contest

Represent your school in our Amazing Spaghetti Machine Contest.

Amazing Spaghetti Machine Contest 2020

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 that is used to perform a relatively simple task.

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!

To see some example spaghetti machines in action, view our Spaghetti workshop videos.

Students building and testing their machines
Students building and testing their machines in Wilson Hall at the 2017 contest.

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’.