“The Rube Goldberg class is the closest thing to an engineering experience you can get at St. Olaf,” says Sevy Bialke ‘13, co-captain of the St. Olaf team that won the 2012 Rube Goldberg Competition. “Working on this project gave me a strong interest in engineering,” his co-captain, Justine Tawel ‘12 said. A physics and chemistry double major, Tawel says she is now looking for opportunities in the field of engineering that she would not have originally considered.
[Photo to right: Sevy and Justine]
Bialke, a physics and mathematics double major, is quick to note that while he is not necessarily pursuing an engineering profession either, the program has offered him other valuable skills.
“I thought I knew the value of teamwork, but this experience has redefined the meaning for me,” he says. “I now truly understand what a small group of diverse individuals can accomplish when they have a common goal. Understanding and appreciating this will help me in any career I choose.”
The St. Olaf team, which took first place with their "End of the World" themed machine, was composed of members from a J-term class led by physics professor Jason Engbrecht. After successfully creating a 191-step machine – to inflate and pop a balloon – they presented the project at Purdue University, outshining teams from across the country.
[Photo: The team, after the win]
The team’s combined creativity ultimately drove them to success. “At the beginning of Interim, I was nervous because I thought that, as an individual, I wouldn’t be able to come up with any awesome ideas like all of the last machines demonstrated,” says Tawel. “Then, as the first few days progressed, I realized that everyone else was in the same boat and that it didn’t matter. As a group we were able to come up with the ideas that astounded and amazed me.”
“On the last day of interim we had our ‘final’ for the class,” says Bialke. “The machine was officially graded by Doc for completeness and how well it functioned. Completing those runs with only a few touches, seeing the entire machine come together, everybody's hard work combined...it was nearly as good as winning the competition.”
[Photo: (left to right) co-captain Justine, machine re-setter Ronald Cung '13, "Doc" (Jason Engbrecht), machine re-setter Anne Jacobson '13, and co-captain Sevy]
Aside from being the representatives of a fantastic team, Bialke and Tawel also happen to be fascinating individuals as well. Tawel, a native of Monrovia, California, is a member of the Equestrian team, and is currently learning how to weld and blow glass, just for the fun of it. “I am also a dual citizen of Australia, even though I've never been there,” she adds. According to Bialke, she is also an avid fan of dancing to polka music.
Bialke, on the other hand, has owned a motorcycle since he was 16, enjoys throwing pots on the wheel, and, according to Tawel, is “a staunch believer in the versatility and usefulness of hot glue for everything.” He loves to run, and works in Hastings, his hometown, on the weekends. He is considering a career in business management, though he says he is “open to wherever my decisions until then let me fall.”
[Photo: The Team]
This care-free, yet responsible attitude is what Bialke believes every Ole should strive for. “If it’s not worth doing well, it’s not worth doing at all,” he says. “If you’re going to do it, do it right.”