NASA, Queen, Jurassic Park, & Avengers Featured in Fantastic Rube Goldberg 2019

By: Isabella Nicosia ’19, Maryam Ahmed ’19, Hailey Raimo ’19, Brianna Rodriguez ’20 and Kayla Leonard ’20

Rube Goldberg continues to be a much anticipated event that AP Physics and AP Calculus students enjoy taking part in each year. Students are divided into teams then tasked with creating machines designed to complete a simple task, but in an overly complicated and elaborate way. This helps to reinforce all of the physics and calculus concepts they have learned over the course of the school year. This year’s project themes included Queen, NASA, Avengers, and Jurassic Park.

Each team begins preparing for this project right after their AP exams (the second week of May) and present them the second week of June. Each group has one leader, chosen by AP Physics teacher Ms. Elena Shtraks, and many other members on their team assist them in coming up with ideas and making their models.

“This year we had very different teams and we had a very good group of volunteers who are not taking AP Calculus or AP Physics but came everyday for work,” shared Ms. Shtraks. “They spent so much time just to help out.”

The Rube Goldberg project is headed by Ms. Lori Quail and Ms. Shtraks, the latter of which has been putting the project together for over ten years. One of the most rewarding aspects for them is the communal elements to the work. “The best part of Rube Goldberg is seeing everyone come together,” Ms. Quail said. “It’s great to see everyone become less stressed than during the year in AP Calculus and AP Physics. That’s our favorite part.”


As the seniors pitched in ideas as a group, Captain Jake Son and Assistant Captain Nell Grabowski decided on Queen, a popular British rock band in the 1970’s and popular Girls’ Show earlier in the year. The team collectively decided that adding musical elements to their project would add a unique touch. The members of the team included Arlen Garcia, Tahmeed Chowdhury, Catherine Fergesen, Inayah Khan, Marc Garcia, Doha Hamouda, Maryam Ahmed, and Zoe Weigele. 

Their demonstration began with a marble dropping from the highest ledge, hitting bells chiming to the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody. The marble then traveled through a cascade and went down a tube designed with purple musical notes and centered with a cardboard figure of lead singer Freddy Mercury, while Don’t Stop Me Now played. The marble then hit a set of dominos, triggering a rainbow machine to twirl for about ten seconds. This machine connected to a block with a horse attached to it, which hit a pulley system that snatched the wig off of guitarist Brian May. From there, purple water traveled down a tube through dry ice. A marble hit the colored paper rolls, that consecutively dropped popsicle sticks with musical notes drawn on them. A marble then traveled straight across, hitting dominos, followed by moving a hand-crafted guitar. A new marble then traveled down a ramp and fell right into a cup that bounced off a drum. As the cup hit the drum, cardboard letters that read “We Are the Champions” fell one by one off the chalkboard that was decorated with a large ‘Q’ ramp designed with feathers and lights, and the following letters ‘ueen’, to the tune of We Will Rock You. A poster of the band Queen, unraveled, making it seem as if the poster was curling up, revealing a new poster with Mrs. Elena Shtraks, Mrs. Jamie Peters, and Mr. Kevin Haimowitz’s faces photoshopped into the iconic Queen band album cover.

The group was commended for integrating music and creativity into their project. Despite the lightness of the presentation, group members were anxious their finale would fizzle. If the ‘Q’ Ramp did not execute correctly, the finale, revealing the poster, wouldn’t work. Thankfully, the intricate project went off smoothly.

With about four weeks to finish the project, Grabowski and Son were determined they would be able to execute their presentation with little to no mistakes. “Up until the final presentation, I think everyone was on their toes and holding their breath without realizing it,” remarked Grabowski. “As soon as the project was over all the stress dispersed with the final perfect run.” 

With students and staff watching every other period, members of Queen were confident in their execution and excited to wow the audience. “Our team displayed such an outstanding effort, and I cannot believe we executed this project in less than a month,” Son said.

Members of the team would stay after school to finish up small decorations to add a more pleasant look to the presentation. “Adding the little details to the presentation not only made a big difference, but allowed a more precise performance as well,” Hamouda stated. 



The NASA team for the Rube Goldberg Award event was made up of several talented individuals. The team was led by Thomas Ehrenberg with assistants Spiro Klimentos and Mounir Sakhat. The remaining members were Zaid Sousan, Pete Hernandez, Omar Sousan, Gioia Gaita, Jess Lameiras, Samantha Torres, Kathleen Cathcart, Nadien Attili and Laila Mustafa.

The theme was chosen based off a love of space that the group members and captain shared. They wanted to choose something that people were familiar with and could become a part of easily.

The presentation started with a blast as the team sent a rocket into “space” and even included a shooting star traveling across the physics room.

Ehrenberg and his group members were officially rewarded by Shtraks and Quail for their immense effort and time poured into creating their project.  “I think it is an honor to receive this award. I’m very thankful to be recognized for the effort I put into the project and my group’s NASA corner,” said Spiro. “However the real honor is being able to enjoy this experience with my classmates/friends and create a project that will inspire the future AP Physics and Calculus classes.”


Jurassic Park:

As the groups prepared for this event, deciding on a theme was one of the main goals. Captain Michael Burgos and Assistant Captain Imtiyaz Ahmed (along with other members of the group) decided that Jurassic Park was just the right one. According to Burgos, deciding was a bit of a challenge considering they had other themes in mind such as, Pirates of the Carribean. 

The presentation began with a “tour guide” opening the gate to Jurassic Park.  As the audience went through the tour, they were amazed to see the different tasks leading up to the shocking finale. The two-part conclusion included an erupting volcano and a dinosaur emerging from the classroom closet.

Members of Jurassic Park included Sarah Olivola, Michael Burgos, Imtiyaz Ahmed, Raisa Islam, Jennan Alkhalaf, Arianna Cannariato, Alex Papasavas, Sarah Filipczuk and Joseph Valencia. 

The ingenuity of all teams inspired great admiration from Quail and Shtraks, who hope the strength of this year’s presentations carries over to future classes. “We hope that next year the students will use this year’s projects as an example and will strive to make their projects even better,” said Shtraks. “We also can’t wait to see what new ideas the class next year has in store and what they’ll come up with.”



Team Captain Thien Dinh-Do ‘19, along with Assistant Captain Lauren Hamilton ‘19, chosen the theme Avengers for their project. The team consisted of seniors Omar Abbassi, Tessa McCormick, Jocelyn Martinez, Olivia Ugliarolo, Michael Giannasio, Emily Hyde, Alyssa Minnela, and Joshua Bleeker.

The idea of Avengers came about within the first couple days of working on the project. It was a theme that most members of the group were familiar with and could therefore contribute to intellectually. The group felt the theme was well-suited to crafting a storyline, mirroring the events in Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War, where supervillain Thanos sets out on a mission to collect six “Infinity Stones.”

“It was nice to have a theme that was well-known to get the audience to better understand how to transform any theme into a “Rube Goldberg” project,” said Dinh-Do.

After picking the theme, the preparation process mainly consisted of blueprinting. The group divided up into teams, each responsible for their own part of the project. Some subgroups were in charge of specific areas of the project (which took up an entire corner of the classroom), while others focused on specific elements, such as transitions and art.

The presentation began by pulling of a string that released a marble from a funnel on the ceiling. The marble hit Captain America’s shield, which then rolled across the floor. The shield knocked over a block, pulling a wire that released two marbles down a cascade. The marbles then knocked into a third larger marble, and the three fell into a cup, which began to move downwards. Water was then released from a separate cup over a pulley system and filled into another cup on a scale, triggering a piston that released Thor’s hammer. This set off another piston, which pushed a cart with a lit candle. The cart reached flash paper holding Thanos in place and the paper produced a flame. Thanos was then released on a pendulum, swinging over and knocking a Gamora action figure off a cliff. The fall set off a piston in Iron Man, releasing a marble through a tube he was holding. The marble fell into the Guardians’ ship and was sent down a wire. The ship flew into a sign, knocking over dominoes, and releasing the marble down a ramp. It then fell into a funnel connected to a tube and knocked down a block connected to a wire. The wire pulled Vision’s face and released a “mind stone” from his forehead. The stone fell down the ramp, hitting Hawkeye’s arrow, and a magnet was knocked off. This triggered a piston attached to a wire, which pulled and opened chest filled with sand. The sand then fell onto a poster with the Avengers symbol glued on as the big finale.

The presentation included quite a few tricky elements. The pendulum swing had an extremely wide range, which made it difficult to make sure it would be on target each time. The group had gone through many different ideas before deciding on the perfect finale. This ending not only had a “wow factor”, but also followed the Avengers storyline.

“We wanted to use [flash paper] in one of our steps so we thought of what parts of the Avengers movies we could incorporate that into,” said Ugliarolo. “For our finale, we decided to incorporate the sand that makes Spider-Man disappear and we wanted to have a nice surprise at the end.”

The biggest obstacle that the Avengers team overcame was consistency. It was challenging to ensure that each complex piece of the project would work every time, especially steps that were not “tracked.” In other words, many steps in their presentation could easily miss a target or move in any direction, unlike others that had a track to follow

 and were guided to the next location. Yet, despite the obstacles they faced, each presentation was entertaining, impressive, and a perfect representation of the hard work invested by the team.

“Overall, the Rube Goldberg project was a very positive experience and something I will remember about PV 

forever,” said McCormick. “We worked hard for so many hours and the best feeling was getting a perfect run with no mistakes during the last presentation.”

The unique elements of their project, as well as their portrayal of the movie’s storyline, made the Avengers team’s presentation one to watch. Most team members agree that it was the collective effort of the group that led to such a successful and enjoyable presentation.

“From being in Rube Goldberg for two years from Fortnite to Avengers, I felt that everything was taken to the next level and, with the amazing team I had, we were able to achieve such a great presentation, an unforgettable experience,” said Dinh-Do.


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