Interning at Revolution Kites

Authors: 
Joe Hadzicki
Article type: 
Discourse

Rube Goldberg. You know, the guy with the crazy, over-engineered, mechanical contraptions that do very simple tasks in very complicated ways. That’s what got me into this internship program with my high school alma mater. It all started during my son’s freshman year. The school puts on an annual open house event where the students display projects and activities they work on for a month during the winter break. Some go on trips to Europe, some do cooking classes, and some build things. As I walked into the gymnasium filled with the excited chatter of students explaining their projects to their parents, I saw one of the sophomore projects. This was, hands down, the most interesting display of the night. Taking up four banquet tables was a massive “Rube Goldberg machine.” I said to myself, “Wow, these kids are actually learning something useful.” I don’t say this just because I’m a mechanical engineer. Well, maybe that’s part of it, but...

All right, maybe there isn’t anything useful about the exercise, but its creativity and imagination gave me goosebumps. After getting over the initial excitement, I started exploring the details of the machine. From an engineering point of view, the most difficult challenge of this type of machine is repeatability. Will the ball roll down the same path and trigger the same levers to completion each time? This contraption was anything but dependable. Virtually everything was duct taped together, including the four banquet tables. As I walked around the gymnasium, taking in all the other projects, my mind kept going back to the contraption. I’ve spent my whole life trying to create cool mechanical contraptions, and I started thinking, “Maybe I could help these kids out next year on their ‘Rube Goldberg’ project.” Surely I could teach them something about real engineering and expose them to tools, machines, materials, and basic engineering processes such as welding and machining processes using mills and lathes.  

By the end of the evening, I was talking with the principal of the school offering my services. They couldn’t wait to accept my offer to help, but said the only area where they allow parents to participate is an internship program for the seniors. Long story short, I would spend the next three years offering an internship at my company waiting for my son to become a senior. But there was one more catch. Parents aren’t allowed to have their own children in their internships. So, to get around this little technicality, I had my brother Dave “teach” the internship during my son’s senior year.

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