Friday, November 03, 2006

Trebuchet day

My nephew, Michael, a junior in high school, is in an advanced physics class. There are 2 advanced physics classes, and the kids from both classes form groups and each group must make a trebuchet. This is a long-standing tradition at our high school. Their trebuchet must be able to launch a 5-pound item at least 40 yards. This morning was the launch day, and I attended. It was a really neat thing to see.

The kids were launching pumpkins, gallon jugs of water, bags of flour, basketballs and other items. There were 8 or 9 trebuchets total. Michael's group made the best one... it launched every item much farther than required and launched consistently well. It was so cool!

Their trebuchet was about the smallest, but clearly the best design. I was very proud of my oh-so-smart nephew. And his whole team, of course...

The trebuchet next to Michael's group was wicked. It had one heck of a weight on it, and the first pumpkin it launched did not go very far, but when it hit the ground, it was mushed... too much power. They adjusted it over and over, and you really never knew where the item being launched was going to go. One pumpkin went right under the trailer the trebuchet was sitting on. Another went straight up into the air about 40 feet or more and then straight back down... did the crowd move fast or what! That time kinda scared me. From then on, every time they launched, folks moved back.

Another trebuchet was built with no trigger device, no rope to pull or anything... the kids worked together to lift the weight and pull down on the lever, then simply used their body weight to hold it until the item being launched was secure, then they jumped off and out of the way. Let me say that again... then they jumped off and out of the way. Apparently one is not required to possess simple common sense to enroll in the advanced physics class. At one point, one of the girls was straddling the lever, and she did so a couple of times. That made me so nervous, I finally had to quit watching that team.

I think there was really only one machine that didn't do well, the rest were launching away throughout the couple of hours. The field in front was covered in pumpkin carcasses.

One of my favorite episodes of 'Northern Exposure' is the one where they launch a piano... no piano this morning, but watching pumpkins and gallon jugs of water exploding was very satisfying. Now that is a fun time.

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