It wasn’t a typical day of work at Ophir-Spiricon on Monday as employees and their families gathered together in the parking lot to showcase their Rube Goldberg machine. A Rube Goldberg machine is a mechanical device that is continually moving and performs a simple task in a complex way.
The laser measurement equipment company, located in North Logan, does an employee team building event each year and General Manager Gary Wagner decided to challenge the team to build a Rube Goldberg machine for this year’s event.
“We’re in the high-tech business and our products need to always be replaced with new products, and so we’re looking for ideas on product development. To generate creativity and out-of-the-box kind of thinking, we decided to do a Rube Goldberg machine,” Wagner said.
Employees were split into seven teams: calibration, finance, shipping and receiving, sales, and two engineering groups. Teams were encouraged to incorporate photonics or the theme of their department in their design. Teams could not use fire in their design and all designs had to be shoulder height. The team with the best design would be awarded an extra vacation day.
“We gave the teams two months. One half day per week. They could meet together either on-site or off-site, as long as they could be reached, to put their effort into the concept, design, and building,” explained Wagner. “Each team got $200 for the materials they needed to put it together.”
Software engineer Adam Jones and software manager Brad Christensen were on Team Seven. Their group was responsible for ending the Rube Goldberg machine.
“Our team tried to keep it fairly simple, just because we have other deadlines to meet as well. I don’t think we used the full amount of time,” said Christensen.
However, their idea of simple might sound pretty complicated when it’s explained.
“We used some of our software products we develop along with some of our hardware products. With our software, we sent out a hardware signal that came out of the computer that went and triggered another piece of hardware. Then that started another piece of hardware that pulled a bowling pin down. Then the bowling pin set off a mouse trap that pulled down a rope and set some marbles free, and marbles came down and triggered another mouse trap. It just kind of went from there,” Jones said.
To finish their station, they shot a laser into the eye of a werewolf mask that Christensen had from volunteering at American West Heritage Center.
Christensen said the competition helped everyone learn how to work with their co-workers. “We’re trying to stimulate innovation, stimulate ideas, and have everyone in the company feel like they are a part of that.”
“It turned out ten times better than I ever thought,” said Wagner. He decided that all the teams did so well in building their portion of the Rube Goldberg machine, that he awarded all seven teams with an extra day off.