Friday, October 12, 2012

Siege of the Pumpkin Masters

Here is an interesting pre-festival article from The Transcript, the local Morrisville paper, that was published on October 4th, 2012. Republished with the permission of J.B. McKinley, editor.
The Transcript - Serving the People of Lamoille County with News Since 1881

Siege of the Pumpkin Masters
4th Annual Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival in Cambridge draws cloaks, crowds and competitors from around New England and New York

by Adam Howard

SUNY Plattsburg - Dr. Ken Podolak - Physics Faculty
Ask Dr. Ken Podolak if he played Dungeons and Dragons as a kid and he'll stop you before you can say chainmail. "I've always been into this stuff," he says from his office on the campus of SUNY Plattsburgh where he's a professor of physics and the advisor for the Physics and Engineering Club. "This is what it's all about."

In this case, this it isn't about bards or long swords, plate armor or crossbows. It's about the trebuchet ­ that medieval throwback that shaped a thousand years of warfare by, well, chucking stuff hard, far and even on fire. But, today, we're talking vegetables: More precisely, pumpkins. On Sunday, October 7th at 11 a.m. Podolak, 32, a half dozen of his students and a few hundred nerdcores from around the Northeast will lay siege to a field at the Boyden Farm in Cambridge. And for the team that chucks the fruit the farthest over three tries: All the Gothic glory, a trophy, some schwag and a ton of fun. It sounds simple, chucking stuff. But this is way more than roll playing say those who go about designing and building trebuchets.

"There's no motor on the devise to throw the projectile," Podolak says. "So, it's all bout carefully designing the pivot point and where the pin goes. Ours is a 'floating arm' design and the weight is allowed to drop vertically downward, not swinging." (see photo at bottom of page)

Prof. Podolak's pumpkin chucking (range of projectile) equation
He's even got an equation for how far a pumpkin travels.

"You know, the big reason we do this every year," Podolak says, "is it gives a physical representation to what we learn in class. You could build widgets or read textbooks, but this is really hands-on and fun. Plus it's for a good cause."

All proceeds from the nominal parking fee go toward Cambridge Area Rotary's charitable outreach and the Lamoille Family Center.

The ten-student SUNY Plattsburg team returns to defend its Middleweight Open Division title (see rules) from last year where their longest chuck was 130 feet. The students have spend three full weekends rendering their trebuchet which Podolak believes could exceed last year's record.

While there are several other universities travelling to Cambridge from around New England, according to Chuckin' Founder Dave Jordan, of Morrisville, building a trebuchet has become a popular family affair too.

The 'Super Stunners' Stunners”—a team made up of father Brian Jadus and son Alex, 7,and Jeff Marvin and his son seven-year-old Kyle—from Williston return with their trebuchet their trebuchet 'Vegetable Splatter˛ to defend their Lightweight Division title from 2011. The Jadus family had such a blast last year that, this year, mother Tammy and nine-year-old Victoria have entered an all girl team to go up against the boys.
2011 Champions
Seven-year-olds Alex Jadus and Kyle Marvin will be back with “Super Stunners” to defend their Lightweight Division crown this Sunday at the Boyden Farm. 
Tammy Jadus photo
"Brian, Victoria and myself made several adjustments to our trebuchet Hades is Here," Tammy says. "We are hoping to get greater distance than last year, which was around 35' to 40'. We may make 50' if all goes according to plan. These trebuchets are very tuned, one small error and your results vary. Hopefully this year it will be team Hades is Here holding a trophy."

Gates open at 11 a.m. with the first of three rounds getting underway at noon. Miss Vermont, Chelsea Ingram (of Fox 44 Weather), will be on hand to sing the National Anthem, and rumor has it she'll be dressed as Joan of Arc.

The Lamoille Family Center has tons of games for the kids and Rotary members will be chuckin' burgers and dogs all afternoon.
According to Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Dave Jordan, of Morrisville, the divisions were designed around the spirit of a Soap Box Derby. "The height and weight are limited to make it fair for teams with limited resources," he says. "The team that throws a pumpkin the farthest for their height will win best design prize and receive first pick of the prizes."
SUNY Plattsburg FAT (floating arm trebuchet)
This ain’t your great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather’s trebuchet. This weekend’s entry from the SUNY Plattsburgh Physics and Engineering club features a “floating arm” and the counterweight drops vertically rather than swinging. 
Photo credit: Dr. Ken Podolak
© 2012 The Transcript