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Rookies stand out in roundabout way

West team takes third at Rube Goldberg contest

March 6, 2012

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Jerry Merz distinguished himself as a successful first-year coach as he helped lead a team of 10 Wauwatosa West students to a third-place finish at last week's annual Rube Goldberg competition at Waukesha County Technical College.

Not only that - the group was named Rookie of the Year.

Merz was pleased with the first-time effort against 22 other schools.

"Everyone felt great because the judges said they could not remember a time when a team placed in the top three and won the rookie award," Merz said. "When we started the day, the students looked around and thought the other teams were really prepared. I told them so were we."

The challenge and incentive

Preparation paid off. This year's challenge was to blow up a balloon and pop it using an imaginative contraption. The West students used a Batman theme with a Gotham City motif.

"By the time we left the competition and came back to the school, the students were already planning to be part of the competition next year," Merz said. "Their success made them more enthusiastic to do it again."

Merz, who owns a computer tech company, advises the district on science and technology curriculum, including the aerospace program and the STEM school, which emphasizes science, technology, engineering and math.

Rube Goldberg contests can be traced to 1949 on college campuses. Goldberg drew cartoons depicting complicated machines performing simple tasks in indirect ways.

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