Pumpkins take to the skies in catapult contest - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Pumpkins take to the skies in catapult contest

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - If you put a pumpkin in a homemade catapult, how far will it fly? That's the question some high school students will answer Saturday at a pumpkin chunkin' contest in Lexington.

The high school competition is being organized by University of South Carolina students who are involved in Theta Tau, a professional engineering fraternity.

"The purpose of the ‘Pumpkin Chunkin' is to take basic knowledge of physics and math and to combine it with actual engineering knowledge," said Ray Cormany, a USC Engineering Student and Pumpkin Chunkin' Chairman. "It's about [the students] building something and getting their hands dirty."

The high school students competing in the contest are involved in a pre-engineering curricula called "Project Lead the Way."

"Project Lead the Way starts in some middle schools and goes all the way to high school and it just gets kids thinking about engineering," said Cormany.

Teams from eleven high schools will compete for the title of Chunkin' Champion.

The USC students made their own homemade catapult as an example for the students. They were doing some fine-tuning of their catapult this Friday. "A shorter rope will shoot the pumpkin in a flatter arc and a longer rope will put in more straight up in the air," said Michael Miller, one of the students who is helping to organize the contest. "What we're trying to do is get it at that happy medium where we get an arc, and we get some height and some distance."

While chucking pumpkins is the event draw, students will actually be judged on the chucking of water-filled dodge balls. They will all be the same weight and size, and the judging will come down to distance and accuracy of the catapult shot.

"We're going to have a flag for them to shoot at out in front of them," said Cormany. "And we're going to measure how far they are from the flag when the ball lands."

Taking all judging factors into account, a champion will be decided and then the pumpkins will be chucked. 

"It's fall, it's the perfect time for it," said Cormany. "We got a donation from the Farmer's Shed in Lexington. They had of all these left over pumpkins, and we thought-- let's put them to good use, let's smash a couple."

So is there a secret to the perfect pumpkin chunkin catapult? "No, there's no real secret," said Cormany. "You just gotta have fun."

The contest starts at Noon on Saturday in Lexington off of Ginny Lane. The Pumpkin Chunkin' champion will win $500 for their school's "Project Lead the Way" program. 

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