Invention challenge at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
During the annual JPL Invention Challenge, 20 Southern California middle and high school teams and three JPL teams showed off their machines designed to play music with only one human action required to start the process. The goal of the friendly competition was to interest students in science and engineering.
+ Listen to winning song
JPL held its 10th annual Invention Challenge, an engineering and science contest for students and JPL employees, on Friday, Nov. 30. Twenty Southern California middle and high school student teams and three JPL teams competed in the contest, whose challenge was to build a machine that plays music.

The machines' components ranged from marbles, pulleys and levers to circuit boards, copper pipes, and balloons.

Arcadia High School's "Random Discard" team won first place for its rendition of "The Girl from Ipanema," while La Canada High School placed second, and Frazier Mountain High School, of Lebec, was awarded third place. In the JPL category, Richard Goldstein placed first with his performance of George Gershwin's "Summertime," while Gary Gray placed second, and Kristan Ellis placed third.

The contest had two challenges: Each machine must play a C Major scale, as well as part of a song with proper tone, tempo and meter. Competitors also could only use one action – such as pulling a lever or flicking a switch – to start their machines. No human power could be used to add energy to play the musical notes, nor could the competitors use a remote control or electronic speakers.

Media Contact

Media contact: Rhea Borja/JPL