Catch Him If You Can

Local student outfoxes gingerbread man, wins event

Photo submitted to Times Observer Annabelle Martin of Warren sets up a voice-activated Chewbacca — the first step of her award-winning Rube Goldberg Machine.

The gingerbread man trap involved everything but the kitchen sink… no, that was in there, too.

With a little help from Chewbacca, Annabelle Martin of Warren created an award-winning Rube Goldberg Machine as a school project.

The Winter STEM Challenge was an ungraded part of the curriculum at Reach Cyber Charter School.

A Rube Goldberg Machine is a contraption intended to accomplish a goal in a way that is unnecessarily complicated.

The requirement for the Kindergarten machines was one or two steps.

Photo submitted to Times Observer Annabelle Martin talks about her ‘fresh-baked’ gingerbread man. The gingerbread man’s escape leads her to create a complicated system — a Rube Goldberg Machine — to capture it.

Annabelle’s included no less than 11.

According to a Reach spokesperson, the annual event challenges students in an effort to bolster their engineering and problem solving skills. “They build a Rube Goldberg Machine to complete a task in a complicated fashion.”

“The students were tasked with using household items to make simple machines,” the spokesperson said. The idea was “to get them thinking and active in the months when it’s a little more difficult.”

Annabelle’s device spread out through a good portion of the house — from the top of the stairs, down to a hallway, and into the kitchen.

In the beginning of her project video, Annabelle is seen next to the stove and a “fresh-baked” gingerbread man.

Photo submitted to Times Observer Annabelle Martin cheers as the final step in her award-winning Rube Goldberg Machine captures a gingerbread man.

He escapes. “He was out of the oven and he was running away,” Annabelle said. “I had to catch him so I could eat him.”

In the video — https://drive.google.com/file/d/15Ke-P-3weQJrMGwpyYXCjNDF3vaXUmLj/view — Annabelle describes the steps involved in trapping the snack.

The first step — and Annabelle’s favorite — was a toy Chewbacca that raises his arms when he hears his name.

He was supposed to knock over the first of a line of dominoes.

The outtakes at the end of the video show a couple examples of the 10 or more misfires between Chewie and the first domino.

There is little question that Annabelle’s project got her thinking and moving. “It took me a long time to do it,” she said. “It kept on not working.”

Annabelle had help from mom, Danielle, dad, Jared, and little sister, Adalyn.

There were a number of attempts before the machine completed all of its actions successfully.

And there were times when footsteps and accidents set off portions of the system. “It would go off so easily and it was hard to set back up,” Danielle said. “Whenever we would walk it would set things off.” Depending on how much of the machine was set off, resetting it could take as much as 15 minutes.

In the end, the dominoes fall, the ball drops, knocking the stopper out of the tube, activating a pulley system, starting another row of dominoes the grew to include board game boxes, jostling a ball out of a tripod, striking a target, dropping a weight attached to the faucet, turning on the water, weakening paper in the sink until it rips, releasing the string holding the cage.

In the end, Annabelle cheers.

The project wasn’t graded, but Annabelle thinks she deserved a top grade — an A-plus.

The pandemic hadn’t even struck in full force when the Martins were thinking about enrolling Annabelle.

“We wanted a different schooling option,” Danielle said. “We loved everything about Reach. We enrolled in February, before COVID hit.”

“Reach Cyber is a Cyber Charter School that serves all of Pennsylvania,” the spokesperson said.

There are nearly 9,000 students enrolled.

Asked about school, Annabelle was enthusiastic.

“I love it,” she said.


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