Saturday, September 24, 2011

One Week 'til 3rd Annual Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival

The final countdown has begun. There is now only one week and some odd hours until the 3rd Annual Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival gets underway on Sunday, October 2nd, 2011, at the Boyden Family Farm in Cambridge, VT.
Safety Reminder: Trebuchets are weapons

First, we want to remind all our competitors that safety is very important to us at the Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival. If you watch the video in our previous post you will see that bad things do happen to trebuchets. Trebuchets are tricky beasts, and they can and will malfunction. Therefore, we want to remind all our competitors to help us keep you, your team, and the spectators all safe. Even the smaller trebuchets in our competition generate serious forces that can injure someone if they are in the wrong place.

Loading, cocking, and firing a trebuchet are all dangerous. Because trebs use heavy counterweights the loading and cocking is perhaps even more risky than the actual launching. So please ensure that you and your team are taking the appropriate precautions when loading your machine.

The rules allow winches or other electrical motors to cock a trebuchet. This is for safety reasons.  The winch or motor will not count towards the total weight.  If these devices are electrical they must be battery operated since there will be no access to AC power in the field.

Here is some excellent information from the website regarding trebuchets and their safety:
  • Your counterweight needs training. They know it's dangerous, and it makes them feel better.
  • Devise and use a `keeper line' for your sling. This keeps your counterweight from being whacked in the head.
  • Make sure draw-lines are affixed to the arm securely. If they fall off, the arm will konk someone on the head.
  • Advise your counterweight to not bend their arms. Use gravity instead. (It's more efficient and stronger.)
  • Make sure everyone on the counter weight team knows how to count to three.
Also this:
  • Counterweight should be created in manageable chunks. 400lb blocks seem cool, but are instead lame.
  • Never stand under the counterweight.
  • Never put body parts where the throwing arm wants to go.
  • Take advantage of all mechanical advantage available to modern hobbyists.
  • If nothing breaks, you don't have enough counterweight.

Trebuchets are ancient, but dangerous engines of war. Vermont pumpkins are starting to tremble.
Seige Engine - Juggernaut 2
While trebuchets are dangerous, we do not think they are as dangerous as some of the contraptions that travel to Delaware to compete at the World Championship Punkin Chunkin in November. For example, the centrifugal class machines are especially risky.

Note in the following video, of the Team TMC Inertia II centrifugal machine practice hurling a pumpkin, how they park a 16 ton dump truck with the bed raised, directly behind their machine. This is to ensure that any premature release of the pumpkin, or loss of the arm, does not shoot a projectile at very high speed into anyone standing behind the machine.

At the Delaware Punkin Chunkin championships spectators are not even permitted close to the competing machines. They also put up a safety screen behind some parts of the firing line to protect the spectators.

Since we operate on a much smaller scale at the Vermont Pumpkin Chuck we do not have to go to these lengths. However, we do want everyone to be safety conscious.
Safety nets at Punkin Chunkin

Firing line at Punkin Chunkin, one air cannon is firing at sunset

Crowd at Punkin Chunkin behind fence


So we will see you all in one week at the Boyden Family Farm. Be safe.