High Schoolers Catapult Their Way to Pumpkin Chunkin’ Win

high school students engineered tools to throw pumpkins

Hear ye, hear ye! On Friday, Oct. 28, 2016 Rowan University’s South Jersey Tech Park lawn became a battleground of the medieval kind. The university’s chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) hosted the annual Pumpkin Chunkin’, with schools around the region building high-caliber trebuchets to participate in an epic pumpkin-launching competition.

This year’s medieval theme could be felt out on the range, where the hand-drawn targets included knights, bears and court jesters. Hundreds of spectators came to watch thousands of pumpkins launched into the 400-foot firing zone. Schools earned points for hitting targets as well as for distance achieved.

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Junior mechanical engineering student Tom Mosolovich explained the preparation which went into the event.

“The ASME chapter has been building for about a month, while also working with the school to find a space for this year’s big turnout. Our senior members were a major part of making this event a success during their last year,” he said.

This year’s competitors included neighboring Philadelphia University, The College of New Jersey, and University of Delaware, among others. Some found success, while others struggled.

“Our team motto was ‘works every time’ but our trebuchet only worked twice,” the Philadelphia University team told us, still in good spirits after attending the event.

Engineering clubs from local high schools also participated, including Glassboro High School and Washington Township High School (Gloucester County.) Washington Township, which brought two teams of students from its Science League, described the critical thinking which goes into building trebuchets for an event like this.

“My team is made up of mostly juniors,” said Grace Robertson. “We are veteran competitors and decided that the targets wouldn’t be our focus this year. We built with distance in mind, and safety first.”

High school senior Kyle Lucero represented the other Washington Township team who took a different approach.

“Our team is made up of senior competitors, almost all of whom want to continue into engineering in college. We built our trebuchet to be as accurate as possible—and we came to win.”

The atmosphere was clearly an inspiring one for the high schoolers, who were excited to show off their skills to their college counterparts. And their desire to impress, and still have fun, paid off. The two stand-out teams from Millville High School took first and second place overall.

Millville’s robotics teacher talked about the challenges overcome to attend the Pumpkin Chunkin’ for the first time.

“Our school was only able to provide funds to build one trebuchet. But so many students wanted to be involved that we had two teams, two designs,” said Shawn Jenkins. 

Home Depot was kind enough to match the supplies the school was able to sponsor, so that both Millville teams’ designs could come to fruition. And good thing they did! The all-girls team from the school took first-place, with their male peers taking second.

When asked what set them apart for the win, engineering instructor Gerald Bruman described the students’ dedication.

“These students were there after school hours, even on their days off,” he said. The students’ designs were modeled on computers with the SolidWorks program before being built in the woodshop.

And maybe a little practice had something to do with it. The week before the event, vendors from the Bridgeton Amish Market were kind enough to donate practice pumpkins to the school. The students were able to make adjustments with real experience to back them up.

With so many young participants getting a taste for Rowan engineering, the event seemed like a success of medieval proportions.

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Did you attend this year’s Pumpkin Chunkin’? Tell us your favorite part in the comments below.

By: Bianca Blando

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