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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Excitement launched with pumpkin toss

Excitement launched with pumpkin toss
Johnny McKay

Attendees had a smashing good time at the UA’s first Tucson Pumpkin Toss.

Eight teams of middle and high school students participated in the pumpkin launching competition yesterday on the UA Mall. Each team designed and built its own trebuchet to compete in the event, which was hosted by the UA and the Physics Factory, a nonprofit organization that brings physics demonstrations to schools throughout Arizona.

Event organizers aimed to get students excited about physics and engineering, said Bruce Bayly, associate professor of mathematics and member of the Physics Factory. He said he hopes next year’s pumpkin toss will be even larger and incorporate UA student teams as well.

Hari Subedi, a junior studying aerospace engineering and mathematics, said he didn’t have time to put a team together, but went to the pumpkin toss anyway. Not only did the event make the holiday season more exciting, but it made more people interested in engineering and design, he said.

“(Engineering) makes our world a greater place, it makes it easier,” he said.

The organization started reaching out to Tucson students in March, asking them to design and construct a catapult capable of hurling a 4-pound pumpkin into the air, Bayly said. Although there were not height and weight restrictions, the devices could not be more than 8 feet in width and 12 feet in length.

The first component of the contest was a distance challenge in which the teams competed to throw the pumpkins a maximum distance of 100 meters.

The second challenge was an accuracy competition, in which the teams catapulted pumpkins at a 7-foot wide, 5-foot high wall of cardboard boxes and received points for each toppled box.

Participants arrived on the Mall at 9 a.m. to check in and prepare their catapults for competition. There were practice throws and a trebuchet showcase before the official pumpkin tossing at 1 p.m.

Students, families, and community members gathered on the sidewalk in front of the Meinel Optical Sciences building to watch the competition. At the start of the distance contest, three trebuchets sat side-by-side on the grass and each team stood ready to fire. The crowd cheered as the first round of pumpkins shattered on the Mall, splattering the grass with orange.

Matt Bush, a third-year mathematics graduate student, said he built trebuchets when he was in high school and attended the pumpkin toss because he thought it would be fun to see the competition.

“Chucking a pumpkin a hundred yards” teaches students critical thinking skills and problem solving, he said.

“In their quest to make something cool happen, they learn a lot of scientific principles that if they were presented in a dry textbook manner they wouldn’t be interesting,” he said.

According to Recycling Program Coordinator David Munro, the UA club Compost Cats plans to compost the pumpkin casualties.

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