Trebuchet Club Takes Aim at Competition

Emily Kloostra, Staff Writer

Squash balls, soda cans and students will come together on March 13 to battle physics in the 13th-annual Lewis and Clark Community College Trebuchet Contest.

A trebuchet, according to physics teacher and trebuchet club sponsor Nathan Rassi, is a machine that was used to launch projectiles before gunpowder.

“It uses gravitational potential energy and rotary motion,” Mr. Rassi said. “It is similar to a catapult, but stores its potential energy differently.”

According to Mr. Rassi, the club typically has three to five teams of about four students each. Teams can build up to three trebuchets to launch squash balls, using soda cans as a counterweight.

Junior Owen Taylor created a group with some friends in his class.

“I always love a good competition, and this one has extra credit and money on the line,” Taylor said.

On competition day, teams participate in a double-elimination battle with other trebuchets.

“The goal is to be able to fire the squash ball 20-30 feet accurately, so as to score on different targets,” Mr. Rassi said.

Creating a trebuchet takes experimentation and knowledge of physics, Taylor said. In order to enter the report competition, teams must create a technical summary of the tests used to make the trebuchet.

Cash prizes are awarded to the top three teams in both the battle and report. The total pot this year is $1700.

Placing second in the report and third in the battle last year, senior Bryson Maedge is looking to improve at the coming competition.

“We are going into it with a winner’s mindset,” he said.

Mr. Rassi said that repeat teams tend to do well, as they have learned from previous years.

“I like that we are preparing for a contest,” he said. “It helps students see practical uses for math and physics, but also requires them to construct something with their hands.”

Taylor said his team will be doing a lot of research through Google and his physics book, but then it is just putting the materials together.

“I don’t know exactly what this will entail,” he said, “but [I will spend] however long it takes to get a winning trebuchet.”