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Restaurateurs pitch in to send teens to national contest

They kicked in $4,000.

Nothing should be easy.

That's the guiding principle of the national Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, which honors the celebrated cartoonist every year by attracting teams of people to create outlandish but functional solutions to everyday issues.

This year's Rube Goldberg challenge was erasing a blackboard.

Last Saturday at Friends' Central, the robotics team from Father Judge High won the high school division of the first of what is supposed to be the annual Philadelphia Rube Goldberg Machine Contest. They are eligible for the nationals, which will be held next month in Waukesha, Wis.

Which is not easy to get to - especially for a team of teens.

Father Judge's adviser told Rube Goldberg Philadelphia founder Victor Fiorillo that he wasn't sure that the large team could be able to make the trip. But after a call to Philadelphia restaurants, six offered to put up money.

Casey Parker and Joe Gunn of Jose Pistola's and Sancho Pistola's were the first in, offering a tax-deductible donation of $500. William Reed and Paul Kimport of Johnny Brenda's and Standard Tap matched the $500 gift. Pete Ciarrocchi of Chickie's & Pete's was next with a $1,000 pledge. Kevin Sbraga of Sbraga, The Fat Ham and Juniper Commons put in $500. Tony Luke Jr. of Tony Luke's offered $500. Then came Stephen Starr with another $1,000.

That's $4,000 raised in 36 hours. Smart kids, who usually play second fiddle to jocks in the competitive world, will  get something.

Fiorillo, whose day job is with Philadelphia Magazine, founded the Philadelphia contest last year as a program of CultureTrust Greater Philadelphia, an independent charitable trust supporting arts and heritage programs of diverse disciplines and cultural traditions.

The 2015 contest was presented by Comcast, and other sponsors included the Dow Chemical Co. and Kopelman Foundation.