The inaugural “Pumkin Chunkin Competition,” held on Saturday, Nov. 2, was hosted by members of the Rensselaer student chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Teams were invited to construct launchers to see who could launch their pumpkin the farthest across ’86 Field, with hopes of being crowned the “RPI Pumkin Chunkin Champion,” according to the ASME event organizers.
“ASME hosts a series of national competitions throughout the year,” said Patrick Flynn, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, who serves as ASME treasurer and was one of the event coordinators. “We were aware that several ASME student chapters have held similar events on their college campuses. We wanted to create something specifically for the RPI campus, and thought that holding a design competition would encourage students to build something cool, and create an opportunity for students to compete against one another.”
“We are really excited that we were able to coordinate the Pumkin Chunkin Competition because it was also a great way to encourage team-building skills,” said Sabbir Mohammed, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering, who is serving as ASME president. “Even though this was a completely student-run event, we had a lot of support from faculty and staff members. The event also gave us as chance to reinforce engineering principles, so that we could apply the things learned in the classroom in a fun and engaging way. We hope that we can continue this tradition and make it an annual event.”
Twenty-six students worked in teams to produce three varieties of machine. Participating teams were: the Squash Garglers–Chi Phi See-Saw, which created a modern twist on a slingshot design; Death by Paper Work–The Defiling Cabinet, which created a floating arm trebuchet; and ASME: Conservation of Smash, which created a fixedpivot trebuchet. Trebuchets traditionally consist of an arm resting on an axle, which rests high on a base structure. The arm of the trebuchet is like an off-center see-saw with a huge counterweight on the short end and a sling attachment on the long end.
Of special note, Dustin Hoffman ’16—who competed in the 2012 World Championship Punkin’ Chunkin’ Competition and broke the existing world record of 843 feet by an additional 300 feet by working to perfect his teams’ machinery—served as a guest judge and advisEr to the teams. This year, his team participated in the annual competition held in Nassau, Del., and set another record in the youth human-powered division with a launch of 1,230 feet.
“Projects like this involve a lot of time, effort, and energy,” Hoffman said. “As a student, these types of competitions are an example of real-world design.”
The Squash Garglers came in first with a length of 295 feet, followed by Death by Paper Work with a length of 115 feet, and the ASME organization with a length of 95 feet.
“A student who graduated last year started talking about hosting this event, so it was great to see ASME efforts to make this event happen,” said Glenn Saunders ’82, senior research engineer with the Center for Automation Technologies and Systems, who serves as adviser to the ASME student section. “This event served as wonderful way to raise awareness about the ASME organization. It’s also a great way to showcase student activities, because in my experience, the things that students do is what makes RPI cool.”