/ Modified oct 31, 2013 6:13 p.m.

Learning Physics by Launching Pumpkins

For the past 3 years, the Tucson Pumpkin Toss has taught local middle school, high school students about science.

For the past 3 years, the Tucson Pumpkin Toss has taught local middle and high school students about science.

Groups of students get together to build a device that will throw a pumpkin as far as possible and as accurately as possible: no electricity, no compressed gas, and no explosions.

Teams often work on their design for months before the competition, and winning shots often travel over the length of a football field.


“When they’re doing something like this, it’s a completely new view on math and physics and engineering than you get from just going to school and attending class," said Bruce Bayly, one of the event's organizers. "Now, I’m a teacher, I think that going to school and attending class is really important, but there are things. Building something like this, testing it, having it fail, fixing it, having it work. Those are things that are very educational.”

The majority of teams build a trebuchet, a device that transfers the energy of a falling weight through an arm. It's often a similar design as to what's been in use since the Byzantine Empire.

“This is amazingly fun," said competitor Henry Nordbrock. "You can make a video and use that, but it has none of the same impact as having to throw your hand in front of the sun because you’re leaning your head back to see that pumpkin flying.”

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