Pumpkins fly high at Utah engineering competition

Engineering students from across the state of Utah competed in the seventh-annual North Logan Pumpkin Toss last weekend.

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Utah State University’s Annual pumpkin toss at Elk ridge park on October 28, 2017 (Credit: USU)

The event, which is organised by the Utah State University student chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), saw students building giant catapults to fling the seasonal squash. Teams construct medieval devices called trebuchets that launch pumpkins in a tournament of distance, accuracy and mechanical design. The trebuchet was used as a weapon of war hundreds of years ago, and today the device is a good example of how the principles of engineering and physics can be applied in real life.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for all the students that participate,” said Spencer Tanner, one of this year’s student organisers. “We spend so much time in class learning about the physics of this that when we finally get to apply it, it’s a very rewarding experience.”

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(Credit: USU)

The event was open to college and high school science and physics students and teams from the general public. Prizes were awarded to teams whose pumpkins travelled the farthest and most accurately, as well as to groups with the best or most innovative trebuchet designs.

“The big limiting factor on this was we had to keep our counterweight at 300 pounds,” contestant Keith Leavitt told local news in Utah. “So I figured out the optimal beam ratio and the optimal beam length and then designed everything around that so it went the farthest that it could.”

According to another student organiser Thory Van Dyke, the contest increases in popularity each year, as does the level of competition.

“The popularity for this event has grown so much over the years that before we even started advertising for it, we had a lot of people asking us about how to get involved,” he said.

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