Engineering students build pumpkin-launching trebchet

Cooper Josephs

Contributing Writer

Engineering students are preparing to compete in the Susquehanna Valley Pumpkin Challenge held later this month and in November at a local farm. The trebuchet will compete in multiple events based on the machine’s accuracy and power.

“We first attended this event in 2011, and this year will be the second year Bucknell students are competing,” said Nate Siegel, assistant professor of mechanical engineering who is supervising the project.

The trebuchet was funded through the University’s College of Engineering, and students began building in September. Siegel came up with the initial design for the trebuchet over the summer.

“From testing this past weekend, we were able to shoot the pumpkin 108 yards,” Kyle Montgomery ’15, a mechanical engineering major who is one of about 15 students actively participating in the project, said. “We are predicting the catapult will be eventually able to shoot 150 yards.”

Montgomery has put in about 40 hours designing and constructing the catapult. The team was able to predict the catapult’s maximum distance through a program called Working Model, a physics assimilation that was able to roughly estimate the maximal distance.

“The students did all the hard calculations and heavy lifting for this project,” Siegel said.

There is a $250 and trophy prize for the group that comes in first place, but money is not an influential incentive in for the students.

“We are doing this because it’s fun, we want to win, and it is educationally valuable,” Montgomery said. “We learn a lot through trial and error, and have utilized many things learned in class.”

There are relatively few extracurricular engineering activities on campus, but Siegel has been trying to add more due to their tremendous educational and real life value.

“Folks don’t usually come to college with the hands-on types of skills they used to,” Siegel said. “There is not a whole lot of opportunity to do these projects in the classroom at regular hours, so we have been trying to create more extracurricular opportunities to give students the skills people normally associate with engineers. We are trying to create a maker space, which is similar to the craft center and has equipment like 3D printers, laser cutters, and 3D scanners so students can make prototypes of their ideas. We are in the planning stage right now for this, and are hoping to move forward with this next year.”

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