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Leftover pumpkins?

Animas High physics students demonstrate trebuchets
Animas High School seniors in Dave Heerschap’s advanced physics class got to demonstrate their mastery of “two-dimensional projectile motion,” as Heerschap put it, by launching pumpkins with trebuchets they built themselves on Thursday afternoon near the school.

Middle Age talk or dress was not in sight, but plenty of Middle Age technology was evident Thursday when Animas High School advanced physics students tested the trebuchets they built.

It was the culmination of a month of studying kinematics, a branch of mechanics, and the construction of five projectile-launching apparatus under the guidance of teacher Dave Heerschap.

The day of reckoning saw them launch pumpkins from a hillside overlooking the Twin Buttes garden. A 69-meter toss carried the day.

Classmates from all grade levels watched the show uphill from the launch zone.

As trebuchet counterweights, students used bags of cement, 5-gallon buckets of concrete or 45-pound barbell plates. Lumber for the frames was donated by Home Depot.

Although all the apparatus were able to launch projectiles, some kinks were still being worked out. An arm would malfunction or a rope sling would slip off a pumpkin.

The trebuchet is a type of catapult that doesn’t use a build-up of tension. Instead, it uses gravity with a counterweight at one end of an arm to propel objects.

The trebuchet was known in the Christian and Muslim worlds in the 12th century. It was used as a siege weapon into the 15th century, even after the advent of gunpowder.

Heerschap’s students built four types of trebuchets, including a murlin, and a catapult using centrifugal force.

“I had trouble with physics equations before,” said Avra Saslow. “But this project put things in perspective.”

Participation in the trebuchet project increased her interest in pursuing physics after graduation, Saslow said.

Eric Setka, who built a trebuchet with Natalie Youssef and Joe Jenkins, said the project expanded his knowledge about gravity and kinetic energy.

Heerschap said what the students labeled the Punkin’ Chunkin’ Competition is going to be an annual affair.

daler@durangoherald.com

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