Contraptions launch ‘punkins’ at Valparaiso church event
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent October 6, 2012 5:10PM
Updated: November 8, 2012 12:17PM
VALPARAISO — John Key wasn’t sure how the trebuchet he and his students at Victory Christian Academy put together would perform Saturday during Faith Evangelical Bible Church’s second annual Punkin’ Launchin.’
“We’re a little behind schedule, so this is untried,” the science teacher said. “We’ll all be excited if it works. That’s part of the fun, isn’t it?”
Key and his eighth-grade students took the Victory Machine through three launches, each with a 6-pound pumpkin.
During the first launch, the pumpkin tangled in the net and broke apart against the trebuchet. The second and third launches went better, flinging the pumpkins a respectable 143 feet and 6 inches, and then 117 feet, before the orange gourds smashed on the ground.
“This is a good start,” Key said after the final launch, adding the team needed a shallower sling and to review the angle of the trebuchet’s arm on video.
Though the Victory Machine couldn’t sling pumpkins anywhere near as far as the 553 feet and 2 inches garnered by Chuckin’ It Too, put together by a team from Higgins Overhead Doors in Crown Point, the teens involved in the project pledged to improve on their modest first attempt.
‘’I think we need to step it up next year,” said Andrew Khoury, 13, of Valparaiso. “This year didn’t go as we planned, but I think we can do better.”
David Wade, senior pastor at the church, gave a running commentary of each launch as about 150 people looked on. He said the free event was a way to reach out to the community.
One of the members owns a garden center and donated the pumpkins. The church, which sits on 26 acres, had more than enough room to safely accommodate the flinging fall fruit, he said.
The event also offered folks the chance to try their hand at pumpkin tossing, or use one of the slingshots in the competition. The team with the contraption that sent the pumpkins the furthest — the goal was a stack of hay bales 700 feet from the parking lot — won their entry money back.
Acme Catapult from Morton, Ill., kicked off the program with a demonstration, dialed down to scale for the available space. Doug Diefenbach with Acme said the machine could toss a 10-pound pumpkin 2,666 feet.