You can have it your way -- only 95 steps required

Kevin Sampier

Pekin Community High School students are eating up the accolades after creating one of the most complicated ways to build a burger and winning first place in the national Rube Goldberg Machine Contest.

"We didn’t think we’d get this far," said senior Cody Jablonski, 18, of Pekin, a member of the high school’s investigative physics class and co-captain of the winning team.

The Pekin team won first place Saturday at Purdue University during the contest that takes a simple task — in this case, assembling a hamburger with two condiments and two vegetables — and completes it with an extremely complicated machine that sets off a series of chain reactions.

Their design incorporated a xylophone, a bursting balloon, a Slinky, a stuffed frog flying down a zip line and 95 different chain reactions in order to assemble the burger.

"The main factor was complexity and reliability," said teacher Priscilla DeLaere. "It’s an unbelievable thing."

Decked out like a ’50s diner similar to a Maid-Rite restaurant, the towering structure uses marbles to kick off the chain reactions that eventually lead it to crank out a burger made up of lettuce, onion, salt, pepper and a meat patty on a bun.

The "Bun Top Diner" team beat out high schools from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin to take home the top spot and trophy in the high school division.

The team also took first place at the state-level competition in March.

The smell of onions filled the air in DeLaere’s classroom Monday as the students demonstrated how the machine works.

It’s decorated with a retro black-and-white floor, car hop-style roller skates, records and restaurant memorabilia and rock ’n’ roll music from the same era plays in the background as the machine does its magic.

Dressed in paper hats, the students yell, "Order Up!" when the burger is built.

And while it may seem like a lengthy process, it’s still relatively fast food. From start to finish, the machine made out of everything from pencils to a rubber duck can put the burger together in about 45 seconds.

But it takes about two hours to assemble the 6-foot-tall machine and took even longer to design and build it.

"It took them about 250 hours to make and put together this project," DeLaere said. "We’ve pulled all-nighters."

"It’s been very stressful," Jablonski said. "A lot of work’s went into it."

Co-captain Amber May, 18, a senior from Pekin, said the trip to Indiana was worth all the effort.

"When we placed first, we were really excited," May said. "It took a lot of out-of-school time to build it."

Kevin Sampier can be reached at (309) 346-5300 or