Chatfield students, from left, Bennett Gathje, Nolan Salerno, Mikaela Kohlmeyer and Nathan Meeker are proud to bring the Rube Goldberg traveling trophy home again after earning a trip to the national contest, coming up the end of this month. 
SUBMITTED PHOTO Chatfield students, from left, Bennett Gathje, Nolan Salerno, Mikaela Kohlmeyer and Nathan Meeker are proud to bring the Rube Goldberg traveling trophy home again after earning a trip to the national contest, coming up the end of this month. 
Nora Gathje’s Rube Goldberg team, the Kitchen Krew, is taking its test kitchen national because it’s got more than 20 and less than 75 and makes the strip stick.

“I thought their machine was amazing this year,” said Gathje. “It’s got 70 energy conversions…it has to have more than 20 but less than 75.”

The Chatfield High School Rube Goldberg advisor noted the classy little “kitchen” is really a 70-step Rube Goldberg machine constructed by Kitchen Krew team members Nathan Meeker, Nolan Salerno, Mikaela Kohlmeyer and Bennett Gathje. The ultimate goal of the machine was to successfully apply – hands-free — a Band-Aid to a surface.

The students rose to the national challenge of sticking a Band-Aid on using Rube Goldberg’s principles. The goal of the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest is to carry out a simple task, such as this year’s challenge to adhere a bandage, using a nearly-ridiculous homemade contraption and honor the spirit of inventor Rube Goldberg. Goldberg was known for purposely complicating everyday tasks.

With the success of their machine, the Chatfield students have earned a trip to Columbus, Ohio, at the National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, which will be held March 25-27.

Their appearance at the state competition on Friday, March 3, at Mankato State University found the quartet of juniors up against 17 other teams in the Division II high school contest, which requires that participants be between 14 and 18 years of age.

The Krew took a look around at the other machines being entered in the stakes for the national contest, hoping theirs had the right pancake flipper for the job.

Meeker related, “We thought we’d do pretty well, and we really wanted to get first place.”

Kohlmeyer remarked, “I’m more impressed with our machine this year. We don’t really count the steps until we’re done.”

Meeker observed that while the Krew didn’t start working on their machine as early as they did on last year’s, they made improvements to it as they added energy conversions, or steps, to it. “Last year, we made a lot of things that didn’t work,” he said.

Kohlmeyer observed that the chain reaction began at the perimeter and circled around the kitchen to the middle, and that they chose the “kitchen” theme for the options it offered.

“One of the categories is using household items, and obviously, a kitchen is a really good way to incorporate that,” she said.

Meeker agreed with her, referring to the 2016 machine’s beach theme, “Last year, we got points knocked off for that. Ours has a sink and an oven door.”

Bennett Gathje added, “Plus, we figured everyone else would do a doctor’s office for the Band-Aid.”

There were two other kitchen-themed machines in the state tournament, but the Krew enjoyed visits and compliments from other teams’ members on how theirs operated.

Meeker stated, “A lot of people liked the looks of our kitchen. It looked like a real kitchen.”

Advisor Gathje commented, “It’s classy.”

Bennett Gathje shared, “We liked the design. Everything’s bolted to the floor.”

Kohlmeyer recounted the compliments, saying, “Everyone who walked by said ‘Wow, that’s amazing,’ and one team said ‘We might as well pack up our machine and leave now’.”

Meeker added that the machine’s mechanics made the team feel relatively secure about placing in the top ten of the competition.

Kohlmeyer and Meeker felt the most difficult part of preparing for presenting the machine to the judges was dismantling it for travel and being certain, once they arrived, it was set up properly so the test runs would play out smoothly for the judges.

Meeker explained, “We felt pretty confident when we got there. There were a few things that needed quick repair. There were a bunch of things that we had to take off again, but it was nice to have three perfect runs.”

Bennett Gathje concurred, “We set it up, made a few changes, and it worked every single time.”

Kohlmeyer registered, “It’s not very common to have three perfect runs.”

The Kitchen Krew had garnered the attention of their opponents, the judges and other teams’ advisors, so the next thing to do was simply wait for the judges’ announcement of winners to begin. That was one very, very long wait.

Meeker highlighted those tense moments that grated on their patience, along with the one moment when the results came back. “We were really happy…someone recorded us while they announced first place, and we were so excited that we were shaking. We were so relieved.”

He continued, “When we went up, we brought the traveling trophy back because we had to, but we were just saying, ‘We’ll bring this trophy right back home,’ and that’s what we did.”

Victory was achieved with the flip of an ice cube tray and the turn of a knob. Now, the students are making plans for the national contest, and there will be some minor tweaks to the Krew’s machine.

Kohlmeyer related, “We can improve it, do anything we want to it, but we don’t think we’ll have to make many improvements.”

The hard part now is making arrangements to transport the machine safely to Columbus, get it set up and ready for show, then await the national judges’ opinions, and that’s what Kohlmeyer anticipates and frets about the most. “It’s farther away, but we’re a lot more confident,” she said.

Meeker is hoping to rank in the top three teams, if they’re going to hit the highway with their kinetic kitchen.

Bennett Gathje wants to see other teams’ ideas for complicating how to stick a Band-Aid onto a surface. “It’s also cool to see everyone else’s,” he said.

Advisor Gathje outlined that it’s been quite a learning curve from the first year – two years ago – that she began leading the team of three freshmen boys, and this year, she’d been busy overseeing the processes of two teams building machines for the state contest.

She admitted, “The cool thing for me is that it was three boys who started out as freshmen with me, and I didn’t even know what I was doing as an advisor, and now they’re going to nationals again. We’ve learned a lot.”

The team and Gathje noted that donations are gratefully accepted and that they appreciate the sponsors in the Chatfield community who have given time, money or materials to make their trip to Columbus a reality.

The advisor concluded that no matter what the outcome of the national Rube Goldberg contest, she and the students are excited to be able to make the concept of a contraption a reality.