Professor's work with Rube Goldberg machines earns recognition

February 1, 2012

Rube Goldberg machines, named after American cartoonist and inventor Rube Goldberg, are highly complex machines designed to perform one simple task through a chain reaction. Building a Rube Goldberg machine is hands-on; it involves employing engineering design concepts, creativity, problem solving, and transforming everyday materials into a unique and innovative machine. Most importantly, it is a fun way to teach and learn essential science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts.

Shawn Jordan, assistant professor of engineering at the College of Technology and Innovation, has dedicated a lot of time to creating Rube Goldberg machines, and now he is giving back by teaching others how to build them.  Download Full Image

Jordan’s involvement with Rube Goldberg started when he founded and led a team to two back-to-back collegiate National Rube Goldberg Machine Contest championships. His team went on to break the Guinness World Record for the World’s Largest Functioning Rube Goldberg machine (125) steps. The visibility of breaking the world record then led to two appearances on Jimmy Kimmel LIVE!, ESPN, Games Across American (GSN), The Daily Planet (Discovery Channel Canada), and most recently, Modern Marvels: Weird Machines (The History Channel).

In addition to his award-winning designs and recognition on national television, Jordan took his passion for building Rube Goldberg machines and co-developed “Goldbergineering” summer camps to introduce middle and high school students around the world to the engineering design process. He is also the founder and chairman of the new International Online Rube Goldberg Machine Contest for ages 11-14, which will be held this May.

Jordan’s most recent proposal to expand the “Rube Goldbergineering” camp program to Native American reservations in the southwest earned him the Woodside Sustained Community Service Award.

"The Award Committee is very pleased and proud to make an award of $5000 to assist Prof. Jordan's valuable work in developing Rube Goldberg projects to spur an interest in engineering among Native American young people," said Migs Woodside, ASU community advocate and the woman who helped establish the community award.

“What is great about Rube Goldberg machines is they teach a lot more than basic science and engineering concepts,” said Jordan. “The technical side of building a Rube Goldberg machine challenges students to apply the engineering design process and systems thinking in a collaborative team setting. The flip side to that is that these machines also encourage students to be creative and think more holistically about the context of the design by adding things like visuals and music.”

“Shawn’s teaching of engineering design concepts through collaborative Rube Goldberg projects is a great example of the innovative and engaging approach to education and curriculum development at the College of Technology and Innovation (CTI),” said Mitzi Montoya, vice provost and dean of CTI.

Since joining ASU’s College of Technology and Innovation in January 2011, Jordan has been appointed Chair of the College of Technology and Innovation K-12 Task Force. He also serves as an Engineering Outreach Coordinator for Rube Goldberg Inc., and will be involved with the first ASU High School Regional Rube Goldberg Machine Contest that will be held on March 30.

Colloquia focus on Arizona-Sonora border

February 1, 2012

So, what do you know about the Arizona-Sonora border?

You’ve shopped just beyond the border fence in Nogales, Mexico? Check. You’ve driven to Douglas, Arizona? Check. You’ve read numerous newspaper stories about immigrants crossing the hot desert with little water? Check. Download Full Image

Turns out that most Arizonans truthfully don’t know much, if anything, about the Arizona-Sonora border.

To that end, Comparative Border Studies (CBS) is sponsoring a four-part colloquia series beginning Feb. 10 titled, “The Border We Think We Know: Arizona-Sonora.”

“Arizona’s geographical location and current polarized sentiment regarding immigration issues has led to a renaissance of academic scholars focusing on the Arizona-Sonora borderland region,” said Matthew J. Garcia, professor of transborder andhistory at ASU and director of Comparative Border Studies.

“For better or worse, the current political situation of Arizona has brought needed attention to the state. Our spring 2012 colloquia series hopes to capture some of the current research that focuses on the Arizona-Sonora border.”

All colloquia will take place from noon to 2 p.m. in the seminar room at the School of Transborder Studies, Interdisciplinary Building B, Room 161. All are free and open to the public with registration required at

The first speaker, on Feb. 10, will be Nicole Guidotti-Hernández, a faculty member at the University of Texas, Austin. Guidotti-Hernández is the author of "Unspeakable Violence: Remapping U.S. and Mexican National Imaginaries," which addresses the epistemic and physical violence inflicted on racialized and gendered subjects in the U.S. Mexico borderlands from the mid-19th century through the early 20th. Her presentation on Feb. 10 will focus on a “work in progress” that deals with illness, suicide, affect and racialized, gendered sexual shame in the nineteenth century greater Mexico borderlands.

Guidotti-Hernández is working on two new books, “¡Santa Lucia! Contemporary Chicana and Latina Cultural Reinterpretations of Saint Iconographies” and “Red Devils and Railroads: Race, Gender and Capitalism in the Transnational Nineteenth Century Mexico Borderlands.” Her research interests include transnational feminisms, critical race studies and borderlands history.

The second speaker, on Feb. 24, will be Rachel St. John, associate professor of history at Harvard University. Her first book, “Line in the Sand: A History of the Western U.S.-Mexico Border,” was published by Princeton University Press early last year.

St. John is currently working on a new book, “The Imagined States of America: Nation-building in Nineteenth-century North America,” which will explore the diverse range of nation-building projects that emerged throughout North America in the 19th century. St. John teaches courses in 19th century U.S. history, transnational borderlands history, environmental history and the history of the U.S. West.

On March 9, the speaker will be Hilda García-Pérez, an assistant professor in the School of Transborder Studies at ASU. She is currently collaborating with researchers on both sides of the border to define a core agenda to address ethical concerns regarding transborder research involving vulnerable populations. Her research focuses on social determinants of health in urban areas of Northern Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico borderlands and particularly the role of institutional and cultural barriers in women’s morbidity and health-seeking behavior.

The final speaker, on April 6, will be Karl Jacoby, Brown University. His first book examined the ways in which the United States sought, through the conservation movement, to exert new forms of control over nature. His second project titled “Shadows at Dawn: A Borderlands Massacre and the Violence of History,” focused on the ways in which the tremendous violence toward American Indians that accompanied the ‘frontier” has been remembered and forgotten in the intervening years.

Jacoby is currently working on a project about slavery and its aftermath along the U.S.-Mexico border.

For more information about the series, and Comparative Border Studies, go to or e-mail