Pumpkin Launch ’12 lets gourds fly

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Pumpkin Launch ’12 lets gourds fly

Members of ASME participate in the annual Great Pumpkin Launch on Sat. Nov. 3. Wolf Howard/ Associate News Editor

Members of ASME participate in the annual Great Pumpkin Launch on Sat. Nov. 3. Wolf Howard/ Associate News Editor

Members of ASME participate in the annual Great Pumpkin Launch on Sat. Nov. 3. Wolf Howard/ Associate News Editor

Members of ASME participate in the annual Great Pumpkin Launch on Sat. Nov. 3. Wolf Howard/ Associate News Editor

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Modern day trebuchet records a lauch of 153 feet 

 Tegeler Field was cleared of lacrosse sticks and Frisbee-hucking students on Sunday morning to make room for the engineering marvels at play in the fourth annual Great Pumpkin Launch.

Members of ASME participate in the annual Great Pumpkin Launch on Sat. Nov. 3. Wolf Howard/ Associate News Editor

The line-up looked something like a devious schoolboy’s siege unit, featuring three jumbo-slingshots of various constructions, built by Saint Louis University’s physics department, a group of Spanish students calling themselves the Spaniards, and the iScholars team, made up of graduate students Robert Caruso and Patrick Andrus. There was also an impressive trebuchet built by SLU’s chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

Two new categories, innovation and target, were considered in judging this year’s pumpkin launch. In previous years, distance was the only category taken into consideration.

The iScholars team won the overall competition walking away with $100 in prize money. ASME notched second place and earned a $35 Vito’s gift card. The Spaniards took third place and won a $20 Pappy’s gift card. The physics students came in last.

“We were ecstatic when we had a 100 percent launch,” Robert Caruso said, commenting on the iScholar’s great success in the target category. The group was the only to make direct contact in the target competition. He attributed the success of the iScholar’s design to repeatability.

In the target category, a cone was placed a reasonable distance away from each launcher. The distance between the cone and first impact of the pumpkin measured success.

In the innovation category, groups were graded based on their slingshot design, the materials used and the ways in which launchers changed from last year.

ASME presented a trebuchet roughly 18 feet tall and made out of wood, with two large jugs of water and sand sealed in a wooden cage. Team leader Joe Lewandowski estimated the counterweight to be a combination of 30 gallons of water and 100 pounds of sand, with the cage weighing in at roughly 40 pounds by itself. It took five people to prepare the device for launch.

“We worked very well together,” Lewandowski said of his team’s performance. “We built [the trebuchet] in four days before the launch.”

The trebuchet had the longest pumpkin chucks by far, their longest launch measuring 153 feet.

The physics department managed to transform their original concept for a catapult in to a slingshot made with rubber tubing and a taped-together T-shirt.

“[Our performance was] admirable, considering our ordered parts never arrived and we had one night for our new design,” Alex Reinisch, senior and physics team member, said.

The Spaniards used surgical elastic bands, a base made from wood, and all the rest was made out of duct tape.

“It was a good experience because it was almost everything improvised,”  senior Carlos Herrero said. “We wanted to build [the slingshot] the same morning of the contest and that is what we did!” Their slingshot was built on a budget of $100.

The iScholars team utilized a cloth rest and braided exercise bands on a wooden support.

In a bout of after-competition hijinks, the Spaniards used a sledgehammer to putt a pumpkin into a trash bin.

The iScholars accidentally ripped through their base when the laws of physics denied Caruso his best intentions to get a higher release on a launch.

ASME continued to aim for longer hucks and physics student Wesley Gardner did a reenactment of David and Goliath in a pumpkin patch.