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Pilgrim Park Middle School's seventh-graders took on roles as amateur scientists, inventors and engineers in recent weeks.

As part of the school's Rube Goldberg Machine Building Competition, dozens of students worked in small groups to build a machine in science class from scratch.

One machine was built by Fred Allenstein, Simon Johnstone, Ryan Boehm and Hannah Ketter. The group called their cereal-preparing invention "Fred and Breakfast."

"It was fun, but it was a lot of pressure," Allenstein said as the team put finishing touches on their machine last Wednesday. "After two days we only had one piece of wood."

Henry Pearson (left), Jonathan forbes and Ethan Storck works on a section of their team's RubeGoldberg machine. Teams of Pilgrim Park seventh grade students create machines that use a minumum of five actions to complete something from the culinary arts. Staff photo by C.T. Kruger.

The team agreed that working together on their machine was a process that they enjoyed.

"We had small disagreements, but we got through it," Allenstein said.

"We work really well together," Ketter said.

This year's theme for the seventh-grade machines called for students' work to involve some sort of culinary task.

In one case, Thatcher Rortvedt, Aries Vang, Ryler Rhode and Kaylin O'Rourke's machine combined a number of moving parts to dispense pasta into a pot as well as sauce and spices.

That group also agreed that the process had been rewarding and fun at the same time.

The teams often use mechanisms such as marbles and small toy cars that run down tracks made of wood or cardboard to trigger levers and pullies.

A number of students felt inspired by the process and Boehm said that he hopes to be a robotics engineer someday.

Pilgrim Park science teacher Christopher Davis, who is in his first year at the school, described the Rube Goldberg competition as one that focuses on developing students' academic learning as well as teamwork.

"This entire project's purpose is to provide a real-life, team-building atmosphere in our classrooms in order to motivate our students to use their critical thinking skills to construct and operate a model they designed from their own imaginations," Davis said. "This allows for students to customize their own learning path while we, as teachers, provide guidance."

In total, students were given three weeks to imagine their projects and then make them a reality.

Wednesday, March 23, finalists from each of Pilgrim Park's three science classes were to be displayed in the school's library from 8 to 10:30 a.m.

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