Moab pumpkin chuckin' festival

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Posted Thursday, October 30, 2008 - 12:00am

Six teams from the College of Eastern Utah physics and engineering department traveled to Moab's Pumpkin Chuckin' contest Saturday to unseat their local two-time champs with the students' specially designed trebuchets.

Physics and engineering instructors David Kardelis, Ph.D. and Kyle Larsen, Ph.D., gave their students an assignment to design and build a trebuchet that would launch a pumpkin accurate and far. When completed, CEU would transport the student's trebuchets to the third annual Moab Pumpkin Chuckin' contest Oct. 25.

Judging included a 20 percent total for machine design, 20 percent for team presentation, 40 percent for total distance and accuracy and 20 percent for good sportsmanship.

Each machine was inspected for safety before the launch. The rules and regulations specified that each machine must be powered by human and/or kinetic energy which could include springs, rubber bands, air, water, muscle, centrifugal force, brute strength, power architecture and bicycles. Explosives, open flames and external water sources were not eligible. The machines could not use vehicles as counterweights. The pumpkins each had to weigh between eight and 10 pounds.

The competition was held on Moab's old airport runway off Highway 191.

The students and instructors arrived Friday to set the machines up and practice launching the pumpkins. Saturday morning was spent fine tuning each machine with one group from CEU setting a practice record of launching a pumpkin 606 feet.

At noon, each group was allowed to launch pumpkins three times with distance and accuracy measured. Hundreds of spectators watched as each group tried to beat Moab's Pumpkin Pirates, who won the 2006 and 2007 competitions. In 2008, they shot their pumpkin 341 feet, while two of CEU's teams threw 353 and 377 feet.

CEU's favored team, bent the main metal pole during its first launch and never came near its morning launching feat. Its captain, Chris Bernard, spent over 100 hours welding the trebuchet with a unique hinge system included in the design.

At the conclusion of the event, CEU teams were one point behind the local winners. "I am pleased with the CEU teams' performance. I feel that if the students had gone in costumes, they probably would have unseated the Pirates," Kardelis said. The students were all able to fire pumpkins successful. Some design failures occurred in the competition but that is how students learn what is important in the design.

Hopefully the students will take what they learned in Moab and upgrade their designs for the 3rd Annual Siege the Day event in Price at the end of the semester. This year the challenge is to knock over a brick wall using pumpkins. On Friday, Dec. 5 at the old Durrant School field, the six college teams plus six local high school teams will launch pumpkins from trebuchets. Accuracy will count much more in this competition.

Kardelis is proud of his students, saying each learned a lot about physics. They gained valuable experience in the design, build and execution of each trebuchet. Lastly, he said, they all had fun with the assignment.

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