Tapanga Borkosky, left, and Katelynn Coleman react after things don’t go quite as planned with their Rube Goldberg machine. The members of team Ruber Duckies were attempting to fold, seal and deposit an applesauce-filled diaper into a bucket. (Photo by Randy Roberts)

Staff Writer

You can take off a baby’s diaper, roll it up, and toss it out.

Or you can set off a multi-step chain reaction of a machine that will accomplish the same task, but with a lot more marbles, ramps, pulleys, tubes and Jenga blocks.

Findlay High School science teacher Tyler Smith’s students were taking the second route on Tuesday afternoon.

Groups had weeks to build a Rube Goldberg machine that would fold, seal and deposit an applesauce-filled diaper into a bucket.

About half of the 21 teams were successful, Smith said. Most groups had to nudge a marble or domino chain along at least once when everything didn’t work quite as planned, but one team erupted in cheering and hugging when their machine disposed of the diaper without any human interference.

The objective of the Rube Goldberg projects is different each time. This year, Smith welcomed twins in March, so the idea to have students dispose of diapers came naturally.

One strategy might be to work backward from the disposal of the diaper. But not knowing how they’d accomplish that, the Ruber Duckies team started at the beginning of the machine.

The group was “trying to think of something that would wrap it up easily,” explained Katelynn Coleman, and toward the end of the building process, they decided on snap bracelets triggered by a falling weight.

Ideally, the diaper rolls up inside the bracelets after the weight sets them off, and then the whole package rolls into a bucket.

It didn’t go quite that way in a demonstration Tuesday afternoon, but the machine has worked, Coleman said.

In all, their contraption, which was covered in rubber ducks, had about 24 steps, she said. The minimum requirement was 10, and students had to incorporate the six simple machines — lever, wheel and axle, pulley, inclined plane, wedge and screw — plus a projectile.

Smith said he was “very proud” of the students — though none of their machines will replace the old-fashioned diaper disposal method in his house.

Send an E-mail to kathrynerubright
Twitter: @kerubright