Friday, November 2, 2012

Dwarves, fairies, vampires, and chuckers

Contrary to the title, this post will actually start with chuckers -- pumpkin chuckers, that is.  Moab's Youth Garden Project sponsors a pumpkin chuckin' festival every fall.  We went last year and had a great time.  This year, I got the hair-brained idea to actually build a chucker and enter the contest.  Can't be that difficult, right?

Well, John was willing to help me out, which actually surprised me, but in a good way.  He had a new garage full of tools, and I guess building machines that throw things is an interesting enough pastime for most guys.  My brother, the engineer, suggested building a trebuchet, so I got to work.

I found plans for a small trebuchet -- one foot high -- online, and we started with that.  It was a cute, little thing that would throw a golf ball a good two yards when everything lined up well.  We used coins for the counterweight.  The kids had a blast cocking it and firing it.  It was pretty easy, so I thought, why not scale it up a notch or two and build something that could launch an 8 to 10 pound pumpkin.  Do you see how my enthusiasm was already getting the better of me?

I'm on the Parent Council for the charter school my kids attend here in Moab, so I talked the officers into letting me spearhead the project and register it as the charter school's entry.  They were thrilled.  They volunteered their time and access to supplies with which to build the thing, so I got to work.  (By that I mean John got to work, and I tried to stay a step ahead of him.)

Our test launches at the house were okay, but we were using a smallish block of concrete for a counterweight, and it wasn't heavy enough for an 8 to 10 pound projectile.  Some of them are posted on Facebook with my name tagged, so if you are terribly interested, you can look there.

The day before the festival, we took the trebuchet to the field and set it up for the competition.  We used about 25 pavers as the counterweight.  When we got it all locked and loaded, the trigger mechanism didn't work.  So I called John, all frantic, to come fix it.  He came up a with a great idea for a new trigger mechanism that worked swell and our launches with water bottles were hitting consistently past the 50 foot mark.

Saturday morning dawned bright and fair.  We set up for the exhibition launch with the pumpkin decorated by the kindergarten class (each class at the charter school decorated a pumpkin for launching).  The kindergarten pumpkin, slightly under competition weight, flew almost 75 feet!  We were thrilled.  Then we looked at the trebuchet.  The axle was totally bent, and the wood of one of the uprights had split.

I called John, frantic again, to come fix it.  We got a new axle and clamped the split wood back together.  We got three launches in, as required by the competition, but none of them went as far as our exhibition launch.  On the last one, the supports holding the counterweight bucket broke, and the bucket fell off upon launching.  It was pathetic.  But we still won!  (We were the only entrants in the adult trebuchet category).  Here is a video of the final launch:

video
I don't know how well that video's going to load.  In the meantime, here are some pictures of the kids' Halloween costumes.  Elijah was supposed to be batman, but he never would put on his costume, so he went trick-or-treating as Elijah.


Joe originally wanted to be Gollum.  I finally talked him into Gimli (from LotR).  I think the costume turned out quite nice.  The main thing is, he was happy with it.


Priya is some vampire girl from Monster High (barbies that look kind of like monsters and cost $30 a pop).  She loved it, so that's what matters.


And, of course, Auralee really enjoyed being Tinker Bell, although she was not happy when she discovered that she actually had to pick up her feet when she walked or she would get the puffballs on her toes dirty.  It would have been so much easier if she could have just flown.



And this is about as Halloween-decorationy as we get around here.  Four carved pumpkins and a homemade witch taped to the office window.  Happy Halloween, everyone!