At the Picatinny competition, children build catapults to hurl pumpkins into the lake

About 50 students from five schools in northern New Jersey measured their engineering skills in a competition on Friday, October 21 to see who designed the catapult capable of launching pumpkins the farthest into Lake Picatinny.

Students and their teachers representing Dover Middle School, New Providence High School, Madison High School, Sussex County Technical School and West Orange High School attended the event at the Picatinny Arsenal in Wharton. The teams met at a parking lot in front of the lake, where they set up various catapult, trebuchet, and launcher creations.

Students at Sussex County Technical School launched a pumpkin 160 yards in their first attempt to win the grand prize in an inter-school battle.

Samantha Masih, a senior and member of the Sussex County School engineering team, said the design for her team’s trebuchet was based on a model used here by a previous team, but with a few adjustments.

“Last time we took second place,” said Masih. “We wanted to see if we could make the sling longer, the radius bigger, if it would launch longer.” To accommodate the longer sling, the team built their device taller and changed the dimensions of the arm.

The Sussex team had tested a carbon fiber arm, but it broke during testing. They brought additional metal arms and swivel bars to the competition. “We know we’re gaining about 800 pounds in weight, so they end up flexing,” Masih said.

The amount of energy required to throw pumpkins into the lake was evident from the bent metal and broken components on display during the event. The Sussex team lost a trebuchet arm to bending, a sling broke on the second throw – resulting in a generally vertical pumpkin launch – and a pumpkin burst into pieces on the third launch.

The New Providence team got their best start and a third place finish in the 63 meters, despite the gym-type bar bending into a U-shape when the trebuchet launched the pumpkin.

“These students embarked on a STEM journey, using physics, engineering, carpentry skills and sheer ingenuity to build the gourd nooses you see before you,” said Lt. Col. Kevin P. Shilley, Assistant Military Commander for U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development and Picatinny Arsenal.

“The most exciting part of engineering is seeing what happens when those ideas and efforts meet reality,” said Shilley. “Learn from it what is working as you expected and what is not. They call this experience or wisdom.”

The three-man middle school team from Dover launched their pumpkin 16.8 metres. “Dover was the only middle school to take part and they took part in all five events,” said Giulia Grotenhuis, organizer of the event. “One of my greatest joys is to see Dover Middle School take to the water.”

West Orange High School’s best start was 23 yards. Madison High School’s 91-yard start earned second place.

Freshman, New Providence High School, won the safety award for how one of their members formulated their procedural checklist as the team went through preparations for launch.

The pumpkin slingshot competition was designed to allow contestants to use science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in “fun and competitive ways”. In building catapults to sling pumpkins, participants used physical and mathematical skills such as linear kinematics, projectile motion, trigonometry, and engineering physics.

Student designers of advanced gourd-firing trebuchets had an opportunity to interact with the Picatinny scientists and engineers who developed guns used by the US Armed Forces, who were on display.

The pumpkin slingshot competition, now in its fifth year, is part of Picatinny’s STEM Educational Outreach Program. Nearly 200 Picatinny scientists and engineers have volunteered to support STEM training. This support includes more than 1,000 classroom visits, providing staff for over 100 educational field trips to Picatinny Arsenal’s work labs, supporting nearly 800 teachers, and inspiring 50,000 students in over 400 schools.

About Gloria Skelton

Check Also

75 times people didn’t have to go shopping and make their own awesome things as shared in this online sewing community (new pics)

He noted that he had not forged the armor himself as it would be extremely …