Charles Sturt University’s (CSU’s) first-year cohort of student engineers have showcased their already thriving practical skills at Rube Goldberg Day on CSU’s Bathurst campus.
As part of their very first assessment for the year, 18 student engineers were tasked with creating a Rube Goldberg Machine (RGM), which involves using a chain reaction to accomplish a very simple task in a very complicated manner.
In this year’s version of the assessment, the student engineers were required to cut a cake – but had to spark a chain reaction of more than 50 steps in order to do so. The result? A captivating device encompassing the entire engineering building and involving 100 paddle pop sticks, 30 super-sized Jenga blocks, four tambourines, a 1980s roller stake, a flying dog and a large knife (used to execute the final step of the assessment).
Rube Goldberg Day highlights the uniqueness of CSU’s engineering degree – a hands-on project and problem-based learning environment.
Practical experience from day one
Chloe Attard, a first-year student engineer originally from Tamworth, is quickly learning what it’s like to be a CSU engineering student.
“There’s no warming up into this degree – we got straight into building things and developing solutions on our very first day. With our current assessment – the Rube Goldberg Machine – every single day has been really hands-on and challenging; we’re trying to make the machine as complex as possible, while still getting it to work.
“So far we’ve had access to 3D printers, a laser cutter and power tools, so being trusted with these tools at such an early stage in the course is great to get our imaginations flowing.”
The RGM assessment highlights the non-traditional nature of CSU’s engineering degree – a course with three main focus points:
- a problem-based hands-on curriculum
- the development of entrepreneurial communication skills
- team-based learning.
Together everyone achieves more
The RGM assessment involves student engineers working in teams of three, with each team required to design and build at least four steps of the overall RGM – steps that must interact with at least two other teams.
The result? The students feel responsible for not only their own work, but also for the work of their colleagues. This leads to the group building a sense of comradery, as well as commitment and cooperation between individuals and teams.
Evatt Bourne, another first-year engineering student, learnt some important lessons about working as a team during the RGM assessment.
“The Rube Goldberg Machine assessment has been challenging, but really enjoyable. We’ve already learnt some essential teamwork skills in communicating your ideas, feelings and needs to the rest of the group. It’s been great to see the different teams working together to achieve a common goal.”
Celebrating women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM)
CSU’s Rube Goldberg Day coincided with International Women’s Day, and Chloe Attard couldn’t have been more excited about the connection.
“I am so lucky to have the chance to present our project on International Women’s Day! My team is an all-girls group, so it’s pretty cool that we’re able to present this project on such an important day – especially for women in STEMM.
“I’ve been a part of STEMM projects and events since ‘women in STEMM’ became a thing. I’ve been doing the Science and Engineering Challenge back home in Tamworth since primary school, often being the only girl in the team. I’ve always loved learning about STEMM, but didn’t decide to turn it into a career until I started engineering studies in Year 11.”
CSU’s engineering degree has recently been recognised by the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as a world leader in engineering education. The course has been selected as part of a benchmarking study that will be used to reform undergraduate engineering at MIT, with CSU being the only Australian university chosen for the study.
Foundation Professor of Engineering at CSU, Euan Lindsay, said, “Having the world’s number one engineering school coming to learn from our model is a validation of our vision for the course.”
“Starting from scratch gave us a unique opportunity to build a 21st-century program to educate 21st-century engineers, who have the social and entrepreneurial skills to go with their technical capabilities, and who are committed to engineering as a discipline centred on people.”