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Roll into 2012 with Target's 'Ole Goldberg' machine

By Amy Lohmann '14
January 12, 2012

What do soup cans, flying toilet paper, and a disco ball have in common?

They're all part of Target’s impressive new Rube Goldberg-like machine that was constructed last summer by St. Olaf students and alumni. The complex contraption performs a series of tasks in chain reaction involving Target products.

While the entire project involved a collaborative effort or more than 30 people, the build team that engineered the mechanics behind the machine was made up entirely of experienced Oles from St. Olaf's Rube Goldberg teams. The Target team, led by Associate Professor of Physics Jason Engbrecht, devoted approximately 3,000 hours to the elaborate machine that took 41 takes to capture in perfection.


The machine, launched by one of the company's signature red shopping carts, features more than 170 individual Target-owned brand products. After the initial mechanics were designed, a team was brought in to decorate the contraption. They were followed by a group that lit the machine and captured it on camera.

The final product proved satisfying for all. "The yelling at the end of the video is me shouting 'Go Catapults!' as I was hoping for our first perfect run," says Engbrecht. "The screaming is all the Target and St. Olaf people celebrating the perfect run."

The team involved in creating this mechanical masterpiece included: Abbey Holt '10, Marin Krause '10, Bryce Danielson '11 (Engbrecht's "second in command"), Caroline Gusa '11, Pat Henneghan '11, Logan Johnson '11, Emily Berger '12, Erik Hemstad '12, Nate Kingsriter '12, Ian McGinnis '12 , Lauren Snyder '12, Nick Stoll '12, John Wight '12, Sarah Beth Sivanich '13, and Christian Weeks '13.

Contact David Gonnerman at 507-786-3315 or