Sunday, February 9, 2020

Google's Trebuchet Misfire

It is fake history to say that Greek Hoplites and Roman Centurions used trebuchets.

Yesterday, we directed you to check out the Google sponsored "Storm the Citadel" trebuchet competition that was held on Saturday, February, 8th, at The Citadel, Military College of South Carolina. It looks like a great event and a fantastic way to introduce young people to the fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). It gets students involved in actually building things with their hands that are governed by the laws of physics and described by mathematical principles, which is basic engineering.

The Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival has endorsed that same idea of getting kids involved in engineering since we started hurling pumpkins back at the first Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival in 2009. Since our very first festival we have included a Lightweight trebuchet division, for kids age 10 and below, and a Junior Middleweight division for age 17 and below.

We were mildly mortified yesterday, when we realized that this Google sponsored event was apparently the 10th annual "Storm the Citadel" day, yet the first time we had become aware of it. Thank you very much Twitter. We had thought we were up to speed on what the major trebuchet competitions were around the country. Storm the Citadel with over 700 schools from South Carolina, and Florida participating, might be the biggest one of them all.

Google being Google, it looks like they sponsored and helped organize a really fun and educational day for all the people involved, plus they had great weather. This is based on the tweets and pics about the event that we saw online.

So, perhaps Google can be forgiven for not considering the subject of history when it organized its STEM "Storm the Citadel" event. After all history is considered a so called soft science or subject that is not the same as a hard science like math or physics. A good description of history on the quora website says:
History should be considered as both science and art. History is sometimes classified with the social sciences and sometimes with the “arts”. History is considered a science because, on the level of appearances, it seems to answer our questions about people, places, things, and dates...
That last word, dates, presents a very minor sticking point that we feel somewhat obligated to point out about "Storm the Citadel"

"Storm the Citadel" breaks down their trebuchet competition into 3 divisions:
  1. Hoplite Division (Grades K-5)
  2. Centurion Division (Grades 6-12, College/Org/Military) 
  3. Barbarian Division (Invitation Only)
When we first saw these trebuchet levels, we said wow, this is a much cooler way to name your divisions, than something as prosaic as lightweight, middleweight, and heavyweight, like we do. It figures that Google would do things one better. But, then after sleeping on it, it dawned on us that Google or The Citadel Military College, whoever had came up with these division names, was making a historical mistake.

Historically speaking, trebuchets were not around for either the Hoplites, or the Centurions, to use. Therefore, Google by suggesting that Greek Hoplites and Roman Centurions used trebuchets is actually promoting fake history.

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Here are the facts.

Hoplite warrior on ancient Greek vase
Hoplite warrior on ancient Greek vase
Hoplites, as defined by Wikipedia, were citizen-soldiers of Ancient Greek city-states who were primarily armed with spears and shields. They utilized the phalanx formation in order to be effective in war with fewer soldiers. The exact time when hoplite warfare was developed is uncertain, the prevalent theory being that it was established sometime during the 8th or 7th century BC. It goes on to say: "After the Macedonian conquests of the 4th century BC, the hoplite was slowly abandoned in favour of the phalangite, armed in the Macedonian fashion, in the armies of the southern Greek states. Although clearly a development of the hoplite, the Macedonian phalanx was tactically more versatile." 

So, the historical record is that Hoplites ruled the battlefield from the 8th-7th century BC to around the 4th century BC. Some other sources said they survived into the late 3rd - early 2nd century BC.

Trebuchets would have been unknown military technology to Greek Hoplites. They did not show up in Greece until long after the Hoplites had left the battlefield. Wikipedia gives us these dates for trebuchets:
A trebuchet is a type of catapult that uses a swinging arm to throw a projectile... There are two main types of trebuchets. The first is the traction trebuchet, or mangonel, which uses manpower to swing the arm. It first appeared in China in the 4th century BC. Carried westward by the Avars, the technology was adopted by the Byzantines in the late 6th century AD and by their neighbors in the following centuries.

The later, and often larger, counterweight trebuchet, also known as the counterpoise trebuchet, uses a counterweight to swing the arm. It appeared in both Christian and Muslim lands around the Mediterranean in the 12th century AD..
Hoplites fought BC, trebuchets only showed up in Greece hundreds of years latter, AD. Additionally, the small Hoplite trebuchet kit that Google distributes for their competition is a counterpoise or counterweight trebuchet, which wasn't invented until over 1400 hundred years after the Hoplites ruled.

This is the very definition of another Greek word, "anachronism" --
An anachronism (from the Greek, "against" and khronos, "time") is a chronological inconsistency in some arrangement, especially a juxtaposition of persons, events, objects, or customs from different periods. The most common type of anachronism is an object misplaced in time..
Centuriao Romano (Roman Centurion)
Date checking Centurions, finds another possible anachronism. The rank and title of Centurion was probably gone or changed by the time the simple traction trebuchet, or mangonel, reached the Byzantines in the late 6th century AD.  The Byzantium Empire adopted Greek to replace Latin. So a Latin word like Centuriao (or Centurion) would have been replaced by the Greek word Kentarchia.

Wikipedia says: "A centurion was a professional officer of the Roman army after the Marian reforms of 107 BC." It does not say exactly when the last one stood on a battlefield, possibly during the last days of the Imperial Roman Army, which would have been 476 AD. That is when Rome fell to Odoacer and his barbarians. Trebuchets were not in Europe when Rome fell.

The "Byzantine Army" page on Wikipedia has a great deal of information and lists a command structure, but it does not include or mention the term "Centurion." So it does not look like the Byzantine Army, which came after the Romans, had the rank known as "Centurion" from our somewhat limited research.

This would be an interesting question for a historian to answer definitively: would a Centurion have ever operated a trebuchet? We think not. A Centurion, was a Roman infantry officer, and even if trebuchets were in Europe before 476 AD (100 years early), a then unique weapon like a traction trebuchet would have been operated by some type of specialist, like a siege engineer. Not by some "grunt" infantry officer.

Lastly, and perhaps ironically, some barbarians probably did know about and use trebuchets. As Wikipedia points out, trebuchets were carried westward from China by the Avars. The Pannonian Avars were an alliance of several groups of Eurasian nomads of unknown origins. They are probably best known for their invasions and destruction in the Avar–Byzantine wars from 568 to 626 AD. Yes, it looks like you could call them barbarians.

Google has misplaced trebuchets in the historical timeline. So, bottom line kids, Greek Hoplites and Roman Centurions did not really use trebuchets. But the barbarians did. And those who forget history are doomed to be engineers.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Storm the Citadel 2020

Hoplite Division Competitors at Storm the Citadel
Hoplite Division competitors at "Storm the Citadel"
Today, February 8th, 2020, Google sponsored a STEM (science, technology, engineering, & math) event at The Citadel, Military College of South Carolina, called "Storm the Citadel 2020."

Reportedly, over 700 schools from across South Carolina and Florida are participating in this 10th annual Storm the Citadel event.

It involved three different trebuchet building divisions:

1) Hoplite Division (Grades K-5)
This division challenged teams to build a functional trebuchet from a provided kit. This trebuchet must have been able to safely and accurately launch a small rubber ball to accurately hit a target set 2-10 feet away.

2) Centurion Division (Grades 6-12, College/Org/Military)
The Centurion division challenged teams to design and build a trebuchet within design specifications. This trebuchet must have been able to safely and accurately launch a standard lacrosse ball in a manner that would accurately hit a target set anywhere between 50-200 feet away. This year the target was placed 120 feet away.

3) Barbarian Division (Invitation Only)
Barbarian teams are comprised of skilled individuals who design and build a trebuchet that can safely and accurately launch a 10-pound ballistic in a manner that will accurately hit a target set anywhere between 300-400 feet away. The competition is designed to inspire and invigorate the true nature of the Barbarian-Engineering....

They also have bridge building, robotics, and rocket competitions.

Here is the website:
Google.com/site/StormTheCitadelCompetitions

Bravo and good luck to everyone participating in "Storm the Citadel 2020"

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Update:

Here is the Google Instruction Page on how to build the Hoplite Trebuchet from their kit:

Google.com:
Hoplite Kit Construction --

Google 2020 Hoplite Trebuchet
Google 2020 Hoplite Trebuchet

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Results of Sept. 29th, 2019 Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin Festival

We had a beautiful sunny day at the Stoweflake Resort and Spa for the eleventh annual
Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin Festival with 14 teams competing in the chuck, 3 teams in the
Chili Cook Off, 31 volunteers and over 1,000 spectators enjoying the chuckin, chili, beer,
wine, food, raffles, two bands, face-painting, and games. Over $13,000 was raised for the
Clarina Howard Nichols Center (Morrisville) whose staff and volunteers did an amazing
job running the festival. The Clarina Howard Nichols Center is doing great work and they
did a fantastic job running the festival for the second year in a row!

Stapleton family sweep using the new “walking arm” trebuchet design!

For the 2nd year in a row, Orion Stapleton won the overall Grand Prize coming out of the
Lightweight Division. His dad, Jonathan Stapleton, won the Heavyweight division. John
was gracious enough to put an “instructable” up on our festival blog showing a video,
pictures and text to build his new “walking arm” trebuchet design and showing how to
scale it up to middleweight or heavyweight division.

Special mention:

Theresa Tipper has come many years in a row and this year brought 3 trebuchets to
compete in the Lightweight Division! Nick Helms has competed 10 out of eleven years
(more than any other competitor, including the organizer Dave Jordan) and brought a
totally new design this year to the festival. The Chamberlain brothers from Moosilauke,
NH are usually the first to arrive (a day early) and this year was no different. But this
year, they split divisions with Ray staying in the Middleweight and Ed moving up to the
Heavyweight Division. One of many father/son teams competed with Steven and Steve
McCann with the son beating the father, just as Orion beat his dad (Jon Stapleton). Don
Jordan (father of the organizer) competed for the 9th time at age 89!

New competitors:

We had a number of new competitors this year: Finn Riley and John (Muddy Dogs), Tyler
Barnard and Julie (Engineering Ventures), Andy Smith, Chris Boudreau, Juan barena,
Kellen Louis, and Tom Laroche (Heritage Aviation)

Results of the trebuchet contest:

Lightweight Division (age 10 and under, trebuchet limited to 20 lbs. and 41”)
  • 1st place trophy plus $50 cash: Orion Stapleton from VT.
  • 2nd place trophy plus $25 cash: Theresa Tipper from VT. (Tipper A)
  • 3rd place trophy plus $10 cash: Theresa Tipper from VT. (Tipper B)
  • 4th place: Theresa Tipper from VT. (Tipper C)
Middleweight Junior Division (age 17 and under, trebuchet limited to 100 lbs. and 70”)
  • 1st place trophy plus $50 cash: Steven McCann from Maine. (MAX D 23)
  • 2nd place trophy plus $25 cash: Finnian Riley from VT. (Muddy Dogs)
Middleweight Open Division: (any age, trebuchet limited to 100 lbs. and 70”)
  • 1st place trophy plus $50 cash: Ray Chamberlain from NH (Moosilauke Hurlers)
  • 2nd place trophy plus $25 cash: Tyler Barnard from VT. (Engineering Ventures)
  • 3rd place trophy plus $10 cash: Don Jordan from NY. (Team Jordan)
Heavyweight Division: (any age, trebuchet limited to 500 lbs. and 120”)
  • 1st place trophy plus $50 cash: Jonathan Stapleton from VT.
  • 2nd place trophy plus $25 cash: Ed Chamberlain from NH. (Moosilauke Hurlers)
Grand Prize Best Design trophy plus $50 cash: Orion Stapleton
Summary of all competitors (all distances adjusted and scaled up to Heavyweight)
Lightweight Division: (scaling 2.9268)
  • 1st place: Orion Stapleton, 658 feet
  • 2nd place: Theresa Tipper, (Tippers B) 223 feet
  • 3rd place: Theresa Tipper (Tippers C) 181 feet
  • 4th place: Theresa Tipper (Tipper A) 118 feet
Middleweight Junior Division: (scaling 1.7142)
  • 1st place: Steven McCann, (MAX D 23) 319 feet
  • 2nd place: Finnian Riley, (Muddy Dogs) 41 feet
Middleweight Open Division: (scaling 1.7142)
  • 1st place: Ray Chamberlain, (Moosilauke Hurlers) 503 feet
  • 2nd place: Tyler Barnard, (Engineering Ventures) 499 feet
  • 3rd place: Don Jordan, (Team Jordan) 439 feet
  • 4th place: Nick Helms, (Weapons of Mass Destruction) 357 feet
  • 5th place: Steve McCann (MAX D 23) 319 feet
  • 6th place: Andy Smith (Heritage Aviation) 317 feet
Heavyweight Division: (no scaling)
  • 1st place: John Stapleton, 487 feet
  • 2nd place: Ed Chamberlain (Moosilauke Hurlers) 181 feet

Chili Cook-Off:

The chili cook-off was a great success with three competitors and running out of chili
before the end of the festival. Thanks for Deb Papineau (Deb's Place) for running the
show.

Sponsors and Volunteers:

Thanks to our main sponsor, Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa for letting us use their
beautiful field for free, as well as all the other sponsors:

Heavy Weight Sponsors – N.A. Manosh and NorthCountry Federal Credit Union
Middle Weight Sponsors – Bourne’s Energy, Casella, Community National Bank, and Jay
Peak Resort
Light Weight Sponsors – Coldwell Banker Carlson Real Estate, Deb’s Place, Donald P.
Blake Jr., Inc., Edward Jones – Caren Merson, Leaves of Change VT, MSI, Stowe Motel,
Olsen and Associates, PP&D Distribution, The Alchemist, The Bagel, Umiak Outdoor
Outfitters, UPS Store, Yellow Turtle

Special thanks to Bruce Wallace and his family for being the Master of Ceremonies and
helping for the last 9 years, to Phil, Ethan, Ed, Brian, Kelsey for registration and
calculating the winners, to Tricia Kules (Little River Survey) for accurate distance
readings, to Mike Dunn for excellent sound system and House Dunn (Mike, Isabella,
Jocelyn and Julia, and John Smyth for great music, to Bob Gross for helping out with
safety and setup for the last 10 years, to Dan McLaughlin for tent setup.

Please contact me with any suggestions for next year's festival or corrections to this
write-up. Djordan@gmavt.net

We look forward to the next festival, Sept. 27th, 2020 at the Stoweflake.

Dave Jordan
Festival organizer
161 Henway Road
Morrisville, VT 05661

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

People’s Choice Chili Cook-off Contest

A reminder that the People's Choice Chili Cook-off Contest is open to one and all at this year's VTPC.

For the sixth year in a row, the Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin Festival is proud to offer a People’s Choice Chili Contest. The festival is at Stoweflake Mountain Resort on Sunday, Sept 29th,2019. Whip up 2 gallons of your best chili and you get in for free AND a chance to win $100 if your chili is voted best!

Rules:
  1. Each competitor must supply at least 2 gallons of chili to be judged by the people.
  2. Each competitor must supply an electric crockpot to keep the chili warm. Electricity and a test will be provided.
  3. Event is held rain or shine, Sunday, Sept 29th, 2019.
  4. Contest will start at 12:15pm and end roughly at 2:30, or when chili runs out.
  5. Samplers, bowls, napkins and spoons will be provided.
  6. Preregistration is encouraged, but not required.
  7. If you plan to compete, please email Dave Jordan (organizer) the following information to DJordan@gmavt.net.
  • a. Name
  • b. Team Name (Optional)
  • c. Email address
  • d. Telephone number
  • e. Chili Recipe name and description
  • f. Ingredients (Optional)
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updated Final Throw:

Thanks for putting us on the list!

NewEngland.com:
5 Best Pumpkin Festivals in New England --
Looking for phenomenal fall celebrations? These annual events are the 5 best pumpkin festivals in New England!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

World's Simplest and Newest Trebuchet (Walking Arm Trebuchet)

We recently received a very informative and interesting email from Jonathan Stapleton our 2018 VTPC Heavyweight Champion and current world record holder (700 feet). His son, Orion Stapleton, won last year's Lightweight Division and the overall Grand Championship for Best Design of a trebuchet. Orion's lightweight trebuchet, named Demolisher, demolished the competition with a throw of 266 feet, which was 180 feet better than the 2nd place competitor. Orion's trebuchet also beat the 200 foot lightweight world record that his sister, Emmerson Stapleton, had held since 2016 with her "Destroyer" trebuchet. At the Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' competition lightweight trebuchets are required to weigh less than 20 lbs. and be under 41" in height.

The Stapleton's have achieved their dominance of the VTPC competition over the years with a very unique and innovative trebuchet design called the "Walking Arm Trebuchet." This design looks so simple and straightforward that almost anyone should be able to build one.

The Stapleton's have graciously published an excellent Instructables.com article showing and explaining how to build this incredible trebuchet. You should all check it out.

By Mr. Stapleton / Instructables.com:
This is the world premier of our new trebuchet design. Not only is the trebuchet simple, it is extremely efficient. It has many of the advantages of a floating arm trebuchet, but with fewer parts, less friction, and a unique projectile launch path. As you can see in my son's video, above, the projectile never swings backward beyond its starting point, reducing the dangers to bystanders behind the trebuchet....
Simple Stapleton Walking Arm Trebuchet
Stapleton Walking Arm Trebuchet

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Final Throw:

A big hat tip to Boston.com
Thanks for recognizing our win in the USA Today Best Fall Festival. And for talking up other great New England Fall festivals:
USA Today readers say this New England fall festival is the best in America

The Hackaday website did a very nice review of the Stapleton Trebuchet:
Walking Arm Trebuchet is different, but effective by Lewin Day
uses an unconventional design to great effect...
BTW, there are now only 17 days 'till 11th Annual VTPC

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

2019 VTPC Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact Person: Dave Jordan
Phone: 603-630-4800
Email: Djordan@gmavt.net
Website: VTPumpkinChuckin.blogspot.com
Charity name: Clarina Howard Nichols Center, Morrisville, VT

11th Annual Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin Festival


Stoweflake Mountain Resort and Spa to Host 2019 Festival

Proceeds of Sept. 29th event to benefit Clarina Howard Nichols Center


Stowe, Vermont, Aug. 29, 2019 – This year marks 11 years of the Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin’
(VTPC) Festival and the first year that the festival was awarded the Best Fall Festival in the nation by USA Today! This festival celebrates the sport of “chuckin’” pumpkins, for distance, using a do-it-yourself constructed trebuchet, which is a gravity-powered catapult. Festival founder Dave Jordan describes the event as a cross between a Soap Box Derby (amateur building/engineering) and a shot put contest (throwing for distance). The event is a great opportunity for kids of all ages to build something with their hands and engage in some family friendly competition. Last year, Orion Stapleton was the first kid competing in the Lightweight category to win the overall contest with a new record of 780 feet (scaled up to Heavyweight); beating his dad Jonathan Stapleton who ONLY threw 700 feet.

The VTPC Festival is a one-day event and is sponsored by the Stoweflake Resort and Spa and many other local sponsors. The event benefits the Clarina Howard Nichols Center. Founded in 1981, the Center works to end domestic and sexual violence in Lamoille County. Mark your calendar for Sunday, September 29th, 2019.

The Festival runs from 11am to 4pm and features three rounds of competitive pumpkin chuckin’ at 12:30pm, 1:30pm and 2:30pm, with awards shortly after the last round. No dogs, outside food or beverage are allowed at the event.

Admission to the Festival is $10.00 and parking is free. Food, beer and wine will be sold by
Stoweflake.

Along with the pumpkin chuckin’ contest there will be music, a chili cook-off, and kids activities;
all creating an enjoyable fall day. Music for this year's festival will be provided by two bands: House Dunn and John Smyth. No preregistration is required for the trebuchet contest or chili cookoff. There is plenty of time to build a fine trebuchet, or prepare your best chili for the chili
cookoff.

It costs $10 to enter the festival if you are a spectator or trebuchet competitor, but you get in free if you make 2 gallons of chili and compete in the chili cookoff.

INFO: Specifications, rules, and entry information can be found on the festival's website at www.vtpumpkinchuckin.blogspot.com or contact the festival organizer Dave Jordan at DJordan@GMAVT.com

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Official Rules for competitors

Friday, September 6, 2019

It's Final: The Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival is Number 1 Fan Favorite Fall Festival in USA

Thanks to all our friends, relatives, volunteers, friends of friends, friends of relatives, and all our passionate fans, who voted us the number one US Fall Festival in the month long USA Today, 10Best.com, Best Fall Festival Contest.

Best Fall Festival: Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival

Out of the twenty contestants we finished number one overall. Here are your top ten winners:
  1. Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival, Stowe, Vermont
  2. West Side Nut Club Fall Festival (IN)
  3. Trailing of the Sheep Festival (ID)
  4. Great Cortland Pumpkinfest (NY)
  5. National Apple Harvest Festival (PA) 
  6. NH Pumpkin Festival (NH)
  7. Warrens Cranberry Festival (WI)
  8. Columbus Oktoberfest (OH)
  9. Hood River Valley Harvest Fest (OR) 
  10. Sonoma County Harvest Fair (CA)


A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to pick the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote.

These are all some really fun and interesting festivals.

USA Today's email that notified us of the winning results said:
Since this nomination was carefully made by an expert panel, and the public voted for this honor, you have earned some serious bragging rights!
Thank you very much. Yes, we might just make mention of this win.

Thanks again to everyone. There are now only 23 days until the 11th VTPC on Sunday, September 29th, at Stoweflake Mountain Resort. See you all there!

Thursday, August 8, 2019

VTPC - Best Fall Festival

Currently the Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival is ranked #1 in the USA Today Best Fall Festival Contest. Way to go Vermont!!

The contest runs until noon on August 26. We hope that you continue to support us in this vote. Thank you.

USA Today Best Fall Festival

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** Reminder**
There are only 51 days until the 11th Annual Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin' Festival on Sunday, September 29th.