October 21, 2014

Medina
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Experiment gives students up-close look at physics

MEDINA — You couldn’t walk through the Medina High School parking lot on Friday without stepping on guts.
Pumpkin guts, that is.

The carnage was the result of the ninth annual Physics Pumpkin Launch, where students enrolled in physics classes break into two teams, create trebuchets to launch pumpkins across the parking lot, and aim them at the other team’s apparatuses.

Participants use their body weight to set up their trebuchet to launch a pumpkin during the ninth annual Physics Pumpkin Launch at Medina High School on Friday. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY JENNIFER PIGNOLET)

Points were awarded for throws between 40 and 60 yards as well as hitting the other team’s trebuchets.

The Red Team came away with the win, although the point totals were so close throughout the day that often any one launch meant a new leader.

Advanced placement physics teacher Doug Smith said the event “dramatically” has increased enrollment in physics classes since the school began hosting the pumpkin launch.

“It’s grown into a community event,” Smith said.

Parents and other students lined the sides of the parking lot Friday, many setting up tents and lawn chairs to witness the three-hour pumpkin massacre.

Smith said the educational value as well as entertainment has made the event a success.

“It gives them a chance to do a project where they have to take a lot of variables into account,” Smith said.

Senior Cody Kumhall, a member of the Blue Team who showed his team pride by wearing a blue full-body suit, said trial and error was the key to success.

“It was a lot of guess and check,” Kumhall said. “A lot of shooting at nothing.”

On the Red Team, senior Matt Hammer said his group perfected its technique throughout the afternoon, adding weight to the trebuchet and adjusting the hook to change the release point of the pumpkin.

He said the pumpkin launch was part of the reason he decided to take physics.

“My brother did it last year and he said it was a lot of fun, so I wanted to try it,” Hammer said.

He said they had “minimal parent help” and used two pipes for the axle instead of one, adding to the strength of the trebuchet.

“We put a lot of work into it,” he said.

Contact Jennifer Pignolet at (330) 721-4063 or jpignolet@medina-gazette.com.