ASIA school gets the ball rolling with Rube Goldberg machine

Abbotsford School of Integrated Arts showcases its efforts on professionally filmed video

Students at the Sumas Mountain campus of Abbotsford School of Integrated Arts participate in the filming of the video that depicts their Rube Goldberg machine.

Students at the Sumas Mountain campus of Abbotsford School of Integrated Arts participate in the filming of the video that depicts their Rube Goldberg machine.

It was a project that spanned the entire school year, used every class, and involved 349 students and a staff of about 35.

It all culminated last week in the Sumas Mountain campus of Abbotsford School of Integrated Arts (ASIA) releasing a professionally filmed and produced video to showcase its efforts.

The Grade 6 to 12 school created its version of a Rube Goldberg machine — defined as a contraption, invention, device or apparatus that is deliberately over-engineered to perform a simple task in a complicated fashion and usually involving a chain reaction.

ASIA’s creation, funded by a $10,000 grant from ArtStarts, incorporated not only sciences and mathematics, but also the arts, including music, drama and dance.

The video, titled “Get the Ball Rolling” and available for viewing on YouTube, starts with a student depositing a baseball on the counter of the school office. The ball rolls down a plank, onto the floor, into the hallway and onto a contraption that triggers a toy train to move.

This begins a series of chain reactions that progress through the entire school and onto the school grounds, involving everything from textbooks, chairs, desks and gym mats to even the students themselves – for example, gymnasts who delicately tumble into one another.

In another portion, music students drop sticks along the floor to the tune of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

Executive director for the project was Andrew Matty, who teaches senior math, science and photography at the school.

The idea started about two years ago, when Matty’s fellow teacher Corrie Wedel introduced him to a video by the band OK Go based on their song This Too Shall Pass.

The video features a Rube Goldberg machine.

“It really inspired me. I have seen Rube Goldberg machines in the past, but none that have integrated the arts like this one,” he said.

Matty and Wedel began discussing the idea of incorporating such a project into their school, and last April a 10-page grant application was submitted to ArtStarts, which promotes art and creativity among young people in B.C.

The grant was approved, and the real work began in September. Local artist Dale Klippenstein came on as artistic director, and Timelapse Film was hired to produce the video.

Senior physics students from University of the Fraser Valley also provided support.

Each class in the school was responsible for coming up with its own portion of the Rube Goldberg machine, with a deadline of early May 2016.

The students then worked with other classes to bring their ideas together to make the project flow from section to section.

Filming took place from May 11 to 13, and it was the first time the school’s Rube Goldberg machine ran from start to finish. This presented some challenges.

“You’re working with machines, and sometimes machines don’t work as planned,” Matty laughs.

In one case, a rocket was supposed to fly down a hill and trigger the next part of the machine, but when it combusted, it melted a tarp, set off a smoke detector and resulted in the fire department coming to the scene.

The end credits on the video acknowledge this moment by giving a special thanks to “Abbotsford Fire Department for not shutting us down.”

The finished video was shown to the school at an assembly on June 15.

“The most rewarding part of the project was watching the students react to the first release of the film. They exploded in cheer. They were very proud of their accomplishments and efforts,” Matty said.

The video can be seen on YouTube by searching “ASIA-Sumas – Get the Ball Rolling.”