Mansfield science class holds first annual pumpkin chunkin’ competition

By Adrienne Douke
Empire Press Correspondent

Riley Wisdom and Ariana Salcido are winners of Mansfield High School’s first annual pumpkin chunkin’ event on Nov. 11. (Provided photo/Jessica Bowman)

Mansfield High School science class students held their first annual pumpkin chunkin’ competition Nov. 11 at the school.

The project was funded by a grant from the North Central Educational Service District.

Science teacher Jessica Bowman instructed a 101 college-level engineering course that called for students to build a structure. The students decided to construct catapults and then have a competition to see which catapult could launch a pumpkin the furthest. The competition was also open to the public.

“We used 1, 2 and 4-pound pumpkins,” Bowman said.

Building the catapults provided a learning experience for the students to design a moving structure.

“It was also a great opportunity for my students to learn the importance of teamwork and working together to complete a project in a certain amount of time and within a budget,” Bowman said. “It was a great demonstration for the students to problem solve and do their research.”

“We could have built a shed, but this was more fun to do,” she added.

Inessa Martin, David MacDonald and Carter Shafer have some fun building their catapult for the pumpkin chunkin’ competition held Nov. 11 at Mansfield School. (Provided photo/Jessica Bowman)

There were three student-built catapults. The students spent about two weeks building them, working an hour a day.

A fourth public entry was built by Calvin Bowman.

Each group was allocated $100 to purchase their supplies for the project.

“We found out that wood was very expensive,” said Riley Wisdom, a senior.

Wisdom and junior Ariana Salcido took first place with a pumpkin launch of 13 feet.

Salcido said that the pumpkins didn’t fly as far she anticipated adding that “we could have thrown them further.”

The top prize for the two winners was $20.

Science students from a college-level engineering course at Mansfield High School participate in a pumpkin chunkin’ competition Nov. 11. From left, Austin Hessman, Riley Wisdom, Ariana Salcido, Orion Smith, science teacher Jessica Bowman, David MacDonald, Carter Shafer and Inessa Martin. (Provided photo/Lisa Hall)

Second place winners were Ryan Smith, a junior; Cody Angus, a freshman; and Briana Ballmes, a junior.

Although the day of the event was cold, damp and overcast, everyone had a great time.

“The hardest part for me was to stay quiet when I saw students doing something I knew wouldn’t work for this project,” said Bowman. “A big part of learning is failure and this project gave the class a lot of opportunities to fail and try again with different designs.”

Students had to improvise on several occasions to stay within budget.

Using bungee cords didn’t work as well as they hoped because of the cold.

“Rubber bands might have been better but Calvin’s garage door spring was a good idea, too,” Wisdom said.

Bowman emphasized there is another pumpkin chunkin’ competition planned for next November and she invites everyone who wants to build a catapult and launch pumpkins to come join the fun.

“We would like to see the pumpkin chunkin’ competition become an annual event and become a Mansfield tradition,” she said.