It was the second time in four years the private liberal arts school in Northfield, Minn., has won the event, named for the late cartoonist-inventor known for drawing wacky and complex ways to accomplish simple tasks.
St. Olaf also won in 2009, the first year it entered the contest. The school doesn't have an engineering department and its team, captained by Sevy Bialke and Justine Tawel, was comprised of physics, chemistry and music students.
This year's winning machine had an end-of-the-world theme that featured music, including Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, and the themes from the "Jaws" and "Indiana Jones" movies. The machine operated perfectly on its own on one run and needed human intervention on the second, which meant a deduction of points, Purdue University said in a release.
Purdue, whose Phi Chapter of Theta Tau fraternity sponsored the contest, took second place and Penn State was third. Also competing were the University of Illinois, University of Arizona, University of Texas, Texas A&M University and Ferris State University.
The first incarnation of the Rube Goldberg Machine Contest was from 1949 to 1955 when it began as a competition between two Purdue fraternities. It was revived in 1983 and opened to all Purdue students, and became a national contest in 1988.
Goldberg died in 1970.