A team of students from Instructor Corey Winesburg’s Welding class at Northeast Technology Center’s Afton Campus recently got the opportunity of a lifetime when they traveled to Delaware to successfully compete in the annual Punkin Chunkin Competition.
The three-day contest took place in Bridgeville, Delaware, November 4-6, in a 1000-acre field. Teams from across the United Stated gathered to see whose machine would chunk the farthest. The NTC team was made up of Winesburg and six of his welding students, Tyson Gurley, from Fairland, Alex Killough and Jonathan Gordon, both from Welch, Jacob McCleery and Josh Wyatt, both from Afton High School, and Nathan Thomas from Ketchum High School.
During the contest, the students used a trebuchet they worked on in their welding class to launch pumpkins to compete for the longest throw. Winesburg took the trebuchet, named Colossal Thunder, and a team from NTC’s Kansas Campus in 2013 and they set the world record for the Punkin Chunkin youth division. Since that time Colossal Thunder has seen an addition of two feet in height, 1200 pounds of counterweight and a lot of fine tuning.
The 25-foot tall trebuchet sits on a rolling track, has separated counter weights and an aluminum throwing arm. It is equipped with a student safety harness with attached life line, a double-safety trigger pin and a chained throwing arm to keep the machine from accidentally firing.
“In 2013, we competed with only high school students in the youth division,” said Winesburg. “Once you’ve set the world record, there’s not a lot of competition there, so this year, the Afton team challenged themselves by competing in the adult division. While they did not set a world record, they did leave Delaware as the reigning World Punkin Chunkin adult trebuchet champions.”
Day one was a bit of a challenge due to windy conditions, but day two turned out to be the real struggle.
“Our first throw was a huge sky ball into a 15 to 20 mile-per-hour head wind,” said Winesburg. “The wind quickly shut that throw down to only 2,214 feet. But Saturday seemed like our saving grace – the wind was calm and the conditions were almost perfect. It was our chance to increase the field record and we pied.”
To “pie” means that the force of the trebuchet causes the pumpkin to explode before it hits the ground. This essentially gives the team a 0 for that throw. With each team only allowed one throw per day, the chances of winning were looking pretty dim.
“Sunday the strong headwind was back, so we were nervous,” said Winesburg. “But when it came time to fire, we ended up with a 2,625-foot throw. That was longer than Yankee Siege II, which was Colossal Thunder’s team to beat. They currently hold the adult world record. It’s owner Steve Seigers is known as the ‘King of the Trebuchets’ and we beat him with our team of high school welders.”
That winning throw allowed Colossal Thunder to grab the championship title by 22 feet over Yankee Siege II, a machine that has a 30-foot throwing arm and 30,000 pounds of counterweight, in comparison to NTC’s 11-foot throwing arm and 4,360 pounds of counter weight.
For those interested in seeing what the competition is all about, the annual Punkin Chunkin will be featured in a special on the Science Channel during the week of Thanksgiving. While at the competition, Winesburg and his team were also interviewed by Kari Byron and got to meet Tori Belici, both from the Discovery Channel’s popular show Mythbusters.
The team would like to offer a special thanks to Dan Kuhns of Depot Market in Courtland, Kansas, for growing all of NTC’s pumpkins, Jim Nance of Nance Machine Shop in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, for machining parts, Todd Eastham of McCulley, Eastham and Associates, INC, a safety company out of Kentucky and Chuck Burton for sponsorships that helped NTC afford the trip for the students, and the NTC School Board for allowing them this opportunity.
The “Punkin Chunkin” competition started in Delaware in 1986 as an annual fundraiser for special needs children. A portion of the proceeds from the competition still go to charity, but each team gets to choose the cause to which they want their winnings donated. Colossal Thunder designated the NTC Foundation, which aids NTC students with scholarships and financial assistance, as their beneficiary. For more information on the competition, visit www.punkinchunkin.com.