MA students launch trebuchet tournament

Published 12:41 am Saturday, April 17, 2010

It is entirely possible that high school science has never been this fun. Students from junior and senior high classes at Marengo Academy gathered on the front lawn Thursday to watch the students from Angela Smith’s class participate in the second annual trebuchet tournament.

“They were looking forward to it,” Smith said of her students’ response to the assignment. “As a matter of fact, they wanted to start sooner this year than the ones last year did. There’s a lot more enthusiasm.”

The project split the class into groups and charged each collection of students with the task of designing and building a trebuchet, an instrument originally fashioned in the middle ages to either smash masonry walls or launch projectiles over them. The weapons are generally very tall and have a long arm the launches projectiles high into the air.

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“We’ve been studying angular velocity and projectile motion,” Smith said. “Now that they’ve done this, we’re collecting data and they are going to do a pretty detailed report.”

The most impressive structure of the day, crafted by Cody Baker and Colton Baugh, launched a projectile 280 feet.

“We sat around and thought about it for a day probably and got the materials ready,” Baker said of the design phase of the instrument. “We started on it Monday about three weeks ago and worked on it a little here and a little there every afternoon until we got it ready.”

Baker and Baugh’s trebuchet reached 12 feet high on its own, but rested on a trailer that put its arm up to 15 feet in the air. The base measured 12 feet in length and four feet in width. All told, Baker said he and Baugh sunk approximately 20 dollars into the project as most of it was made from materials readily available to them.

“The reason I am impressed with theirs is that they were throwing eight projectiles at a time,” Smith said of Baker and Baugh’s work.

The groups took turns sending projectiles across the field in front of the school, aiming for distance and accuracy with each toss.

“The main thing that makes you accurate and is going to make you throw the farthest depends on the projectile and what angle it is hung at,” Baker said.

Baker and Baugh’s trebuchet may have won Thursday’s tournament, but it missed the school record of 335 feet, a mark that was set by alums Chris Whitaker and Dustin McIntyre last year.