A Trebuchet Today Chucks Your Pumpkin Away

Students Compete in Catapult Contest


The weekend of October 27 at Osborne Park in Willoughby, physics teacher Mr. Alan Duncan, along with chemistry teachers, Mrs. Kristin Gregory and Mr. Mike Sustin, and Latin teacher, Mr. Aaron Graora, led a group of West G. students in the Willoughby South Pumpkin Chuckin’ Contest.

“I, at first, opened it up to my AP Physics I class and most of the students jumped in.  After we started working on the project, word spread and students from other science classes wanted to join as well,” said Mr. Duncan. The students and teachers met during advisory periods, as well as after school, to construct two different types of trebuchets. Duncan added, “This being our first year, we wanted to try different styles to see which would be best.” For those of you wondering, a trebuchet is a catapult, a common type of siege engine, which uses a swinging arm to hurl a projectile. It first appeared in China during the 4th century B.C. as a weapon.

A scare came upon the group when, at the park on the day of the competition, they realized the slings they built to hold/throw the pumpkins were too big for the, “…baseball sized pumpkins.” The team had to quickly think and problem-solve to overcome this obstacle. Luckily, one student, senior Renato Marino, thought to make new slings out of duct tape. The result was a positive one.

West G.’s team finished 2nd out of 15 overall. Although they did not win, the students and teachers enjoyed the process of making and putting to use their brilliant ideas.

“Moving forward I plan to use these trebuchets in AP Physics when discussing energy and rotational motion…it is always nice for the students to see physics in the real world and see real world applications as well,” said Mr. Duncan. He believes that this event did help the students learn time management skills, leadership and collaboration skills, as well as basic carpentry skills. All this, while using their knowledge of physics, to construct the trebuchets !

Everyone who participated in this event had a spectacular time and cannot wait until they can do it again next year. Senior Matt Stewart said, “It was fun to build something from scratch and watch it send pumpkins successfully in front of a massive crowd.”