Annual Punkin Chunkin takes over ’86 field

Theta Chi and ASME invade academic campus to launch pumpkins over a hundred feet

NUMEROUS COMPETITIONS HELPED TEST the accuracy, precision, and efficiency of RPI’s best pumpkin chunkin’ trebuchets.

With Halloween passed, many are left wondering what to do with their beautiful, delicately carved pumpkins. Something so wonderful deserves a proper funeral before rot takes over the remains. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers determined that the most fitting solution would be launching our beautiful pumpkins as far across the ’86 Field as their trebuchets would allow.

Chunkin history goes back to 1986, when the first World Championship Punkin Chunkin was held in Lewes, Delaware. Since then, the competition has grown to more than 100 teams competing in categories ranging from slingshots to air cannons. Team American Chunker holds the current distance record at a whopping 4,694.68 feet, set at the previous year’s competition on November 1.

Sunday morning marked the second annual Punkin Chunkin event held by ASME. When I got to the ’86 Field, two teams were setting up for some practice throws before the real competition started. ASME was represented by Scott Murrullo ’16 and Josh Bostick ’17 with their trebuchet Conservation of Smash. They used a traditional trebuchet design and a 100 pound concrete counterweight. Theta Chi fraternity was represented by Anthony Pilla ’16, Austin Amery ’16, Jay Yaskanich ’15, and Conner McCrum ’17 with their floating arm trebuchet Theta Chi Diesel. The two pumpkin-slinging machines took positions at the edge of the ’86 Field as distances were marked and safety rules were reviewed. Theta Chi’s trebuchet was about a foot outside the six by six by six foot dimensions outlined in the rules, but ASME agreed to move on with the competition, considering Theta Chi was the only other competitor.

The first competition was for pure distance. Nothing but how far you could sling a pumpkin mattered. Distance was measured perpendicular from the markings, so even if the pumpkin flew a total distance of 50 feet but only five feet forward, it would be marked as five feet. Theta Chi took the first official shot of the competition, setting the mark at 104 feet. ASME retaliated, but fell short of Theta Chi with an 85 foot shot. Theta Chi’s second shot reached 111 feet, while ASME’s second shot released backwards, for negative 50 feet. Theta Chi hit only 51 feet on their third launch, while ASME fired a promising 94 foot shot. In the bonus shot, Theta Chi managed a record 123 feet, while ASME barely beat their first attempt, hitting 86 feet.

Theta Chi’s floating arm trebuchet was clearly the winner of the pure distance competition, but next the stage was set for accuracy, precision, and efficiency. 91 feet was the target distance for the two competitors. For these rounds, distance horizontally and vertically to the firing line mattered for accuracy. Precision was measured with the smallest radius encompassing the three shots.

Theta Chi started it off once again, shooting 23 feet short of the 91-foot target. ASME was more accurate, going just eight feet past the 91-foot target. In the second shot, Theta Chi shot 15 feet over, while ASME was only five feet under the target. In that last shot, Theta Chi was seven feet six inches over, while ASME was fifteen feet under. ASME was both most accurate and most precise, with a 22 foot spread compared to Theta Chi’s 37.5-foot spread.

After all the official shots where taken, the efficiency of each machine was calculated. Taking the distance the three pound pumpkin traveled, and dividing it by the weight used to fling it, ASME was declared the winner at 0.65 feet per pound, compared to Theta Chi’s 0.95 feet per pound.

John Malcovich ’15, is the competition judge and ASME representative, hopes that the competition will grow in the coming years. This year’s publicity was limited and will hopefully change next year. For anyone looking to join in on the chunkin fun, information can be found at http://poly.rpi.edu/17163. Official rules will be released early next September so teams can get started on their designs. Even if you can’t commit the time to build your own pumpkin-slinging machine, I highly recommend coming to next year’s competition. It was awesome to see pumpkins fly through the air and then smash into the ground, sometimes in an explosion of seeds and pumpkin guts. Next year, this won’t be an event to miss.

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