PRYOR, OK —
KANSAS, Okla. – A team of students from Instructor Corey Winesburg’s Welding class at Northeast Technology Center’s Kansas Campus recently got the opportunity of a lifetime when they traveled to Delaware to compete in the annual Punkin Chunkin Competition.
The three-day contest took place in Bridgeville, Delaware, November 1-3, in a 1000-acre field. Traveling teams included a team from Australia, one from Colorado and the Oklahoma team, but most others were from the east coast. The NTC team was made up of Winesburg and six of his welding students, Erica Hedrick, Dillion Arnold, Tyler Whorton, Stand Paden, Lyle Puckett and Joseph Ramirez.
During the contest, the students used a trebuchet they made in class to launch pumpkins to compete for the longest throw. Three different Kansas Welding classes have devoted two years of work towards building the trebuchet to compete in this competition. The 23-foot tall machine, with its 11-foot throwing arm, is the only one of its kind because it is on a rolling track, whereas every other trebuchet in the competition was tied down or on a fixed track. It also had separated counter weights and a lighter aluminum throwing arm. The students named the trebuchet Colossal Thunder.
“They chose colossal because though it is a small machine in comparison to some of the others in the contest that are 60 feet tall, they wanted it to sound big,” said Winesburg. “And the Thunder reference was meant to represent the state of Oklahoma.”
“Everyone was very impressed with our trebuchet,” said Kathie Bergmann, Student Advisor who also made the trip to Delaware. “They all wanted to see it and stated that it was a very well-engineered, heavy-duty machine. I think we can expect to see a lot more like it on the field next year.”
“The contest organizers were also extremely impressed with our safety features,” said Winesburg. “We had student harnesses as well as a life line attached to the safety harness, a double-safety trigger pin and a chained throwing arm that kept the machine from firing.”
The Colossal Thunder team competed in the youth division for 11-17 year olds. The previous world record in this age group was 1526 feet. The team got to throw a pumpkin one time each of the competition days. The first throw came to 1317 feet.
“Naturally we were disappointed in the first throw because we have thrown much farther than that here in Kansas,” said Winesburg. “But they told us the elevation difference and being close to the ocean made a difference in the pumpkin’s ability to fly, so we were just determined to do better next time.”
And so they did. Their throw the second day of competition measured 1,664 feet, which beat the standing world record by more than 100 feet. And on the third day Colossal Thunder proved to be unbeatable when they broke their own record with a 2,402-foot throw.
Only one other trebuchet has ever thrown that far and it was in the adult competition. Additionally, the adult trebuchet team that has thrown farther threw 2,836 feet, only 434 feet more than Colossal Thunder, but with 21,000 pounds of counter weight, in comparison to NTC’s 3,160 pounds of counter weight.
The winning team took with them their Oklahoma manners. NTC’s welding students helped to repair five other competitors’ machines during their time in Delaware, one of which was able to set its own record in the man-powered division after an NTC student repaired a weld on the bicycle.
The NTC students were able to see much of the country on their 29-hour drive to Delaware. And they took a different route home to be able to see more on the way back. They had the opportunity to see the ocean, cross the Blue Star Memorial Highway and view many areas of the United States they’d never seen before.
“Saturday was our shortest day – only 12 and a half hours – so we were able to take the students to the ocean,” said Winesburg. “We thought that after setting the World Record they deserved a break and it was a totally new experience for them all.”
“This was truly an amazing opportunity for these students,” said Bergmann. “Some of these kids had never really been out of Delaware County, much less had a chance to see the ocean.”
“I had a lot of fun,” said student Joseph Ramirez. “I am so glad I got to be a part of this. If I could go again, I would, but it truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The people in Delaware were great and made us feel very welcome. And I can never get tired of watching that machine throw.”
The annual “Punkin Chunkin” competition will be featured in a special on the Science Channel at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving. While at the competition, Winesburg and his team were also interviewed by the Discovery Channel and the popular show Mythbusters.