Spectators filled the bleachers and lined the fence to watch pumpkins fly at Kennesaw State University’s annual Pumpkin Launch.
William Brack and his team spent weeks building a launcher, and it was a clear winner the moment their pumpkin took off.
“Launch day was surreal and we had no idea we would win,” said Brack, whose team’s trebuchet launched a pumpkin nearly 400 feet before smashing into pieces on the Neusoft Technologies Field. Second place went to the Houston We Have a Pumpkin team, which launched a pumpkin 215 feet, and third place went to Orange Ops, which hit 185 feet.
Pumpkin Launch, a Kennesaw State University event that began more than a decade ago, is a fierce competition for mechanical engineering students in the Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology (SPCEET). This year’s competition included more than 250 students enrolled in the Introduction to Mechanical Engineering course.
“This experience is invaluable to our students,” said mechanical engineering professor David Veazie. “It’s evolved over the last several years but remains an academically challenging event that the entire student body can enjoy.”
The goal of Pumpkin Launch is simple: build a device that can launch a pumpkin the farthest. However, the execution is more difficult than it sounds.
Early in the fall semester, students formed groups and began planning how they would crush the competition. Each group put together a critical design review, where they had to detail what materials they would use, the safety precautions they would take, and how their materials could be used in other ways to increase the focus on sustainability. They were given size limitations and were told the device had to be purely mechanical – no explosives or electrical power are allowed.
“We had to quickly learn each group member’s strengths and weaknesses and use those strengths to work efficiently,” student Rihan Mammen said. “This project also taught us to get out of our comfort zones, to try new things, and definitely taught me good time-management skills.”
After building and testing their launchers, students were ready to show them off. Faculty and staff met with students for three days before the main event to select the 12 best teams to launch on the big day. Each of the 12 teams were given two opportunities to launch a pumpkin in front of an audience, which included President Kat Schwaig and SPCEET Dean Ian Ferguson.
Below are the winning teams:
1st place: Sloppy Log, 393 feet
2nd place: Houston We Have a Pumpkin, 215 feet
3rd place: Orange Ops, 185 feet
Story by Abbey O’Brien Barrows; Photos Judy Pishnery, Darnell Wilburn, Matt Yung; Videos by Bryce Hunter, Matthew O’Neill, Andre Quiles, Ben Versola, Phil Wirsig; Page Design by Nikki Wilbanks