NEW ALBANY, Ind. (AP) — Each stood about 15 feet tall or so, carefully engineered and built specifically for a singular purpose: launching pumpkins about 100 yards.
The inaugural Harvest Homecoming Pumpkin Chunk brought six teams with trebuchets — a type of catapult which use weight as opposed to built tension to launch a projectile — to the field behind the Purdue University College of Technology to fire pumpkins at a balloon target a football field away. A crowd of about 1,000 showed up to watch the projectile launching.
Andrew Takami, director of the college, said it made sense to partner with Harvest Homecoming on the event to have a little fall fun and showcase what their student engineers can create.
“This is a medieval sport,” Takami said. “We’ve seen this in history how armies would use these machines to embattle a castle and take it. We thought it might be something we could pull off and we knew it would fit in with the Harvest Homecoming festivities.”
Some of the teams competing were led by students of New Albany’s Purdue campus. Lucas Young, a freshman, told the News and Tribune he and his team worked for about three weeks building their plastic trebuchet.
He said they had a simple approach to their design.
“A long throwing arm and a lot of weight” is the secret, Young said.
He said they had about 310 pounds of weight to actuate the launch of a pumpkin. They didn’t win the competition, but he said they had a lot of fun working on the machine.
“We just wanted to make everything tight and make all of our measurements as accurate as possible,” Young said.
Professors got in on the competition, as well as high school students from Floyd Central High School’s Project Lead the Way program.
But one team had a little more trouble than the others.
Team Chunk It! fired its trebuchet twice, each time launching the pumpkin in the opposite direction it was meant to fly. Jodi Elsler, a freshman from Purdue on the team, said the team joined the competition late, giving members less time to build and conceptualize their machine than other teams.
“We’re a victim of timing,” Elsler said. “We didn’t have as much time to work on this as the other teams did.”
Takami said he hopes to continue hosting the event on campus with ideas to expand it. He said he’d like to see it become more of a festival.
“I’m so proud of the faculty, the staff and the students they’ve mentored along. They’ve really rallied around the students to help them.”