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From left, Allison Morin, 12, of Attleboro, works on a Rube Goldberg-type device with Sensata employees Emily Haidemenos and Jennifer Brenner during a science festival at Sensata in Attleboro on Saturday.


ATTLEBORO - Rome may not have been built in a day, but several local students, ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade, assembled a Rube Goldberg Contraption in the span of two weeks.

Their efforts were recognized Saturday at Sensata Technologies, where a crew from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology caught the complicated process on tape that will be combined into a six-minute film featuring the other 10 different teams across the state competing to build the same contraption.

The program takes its name from cartoonist Rube Goldberg, who illustrated whimsical contraptions for tasks like swatting flies or watering the lawn. Attleboro's mechanical device, which is engineered to perform a simple task in a complicated, chain-reaction fashion, was manufactured by the students using pieces of toys and other household items, such as a butter knife and a plastic water bottle.

It was displayed over a large map of Attleboro, with various parts of the contraption representing the city's landmarks, such as Capron Park Zoo and LaSalette Shrine, as well as the railroad station and Stone E. Lea Golf Course.

"It's all about combining engineering and art," said Peg LeGendre, the K-12 coordinator for the Cambridge Science Festival, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

It is a complex setup one would almost have to see to believe.

The depression from ringing a hotel bell set off the chain reaction, which sent a marble spinning down tubes, pushing toy cars along a ramp, and eventually knocking a fake ostrich egg off the setup table.

The whole process only takes a few seconds.

"It was pretty challenging but fun, because we had to work through all the problems that we had," said Allison Morin, 12, a student at Coelho Middle School in Attleboro. "We feel really proud because we had to work a lot to get this to work."

Learning about engineering was only the start for the students. Innovation, teamwork and persistence came together as the MIT cameras rolled for the big moment when the contraption was set in motion.

It did not execute perfectly. It needed a half-dozen attempts before the contraption began to work in the way the students had planned.

While the students were disappointed by the number of tries it took, LeGendre hailed the students' efforts to keep trying and not give up.

"It's good for them to know everything doesn't work perfectly all the time," LeGendre said. "In engineering, if you're not failing, you're not trying ... As we've been trying to tell (the students), math and science is trial and error."

Participating city schools were Robbins Preschool, Willett Elementary School, Hyman Fine Elementary School, Hill Roberts Elementary School, Coelho Middle School, Wamsutta Middle School, Brennan Middle School and Attleboro High School.

The Rube Goldberg Contraption will be on display at the Attleboro Industrial Museum from May to August.

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