Cobblers Using Science Skills to Catapult Pumpkins

Cobbler students will again compete against students from the School of Mines in the pumpkin catapult contest during Rapid City’s Pumpkin Festival.

By Anthony Centineo

Once again, physics students from Rapid City Central High School will compete in the annual Pumpkin Festival’s pumpkin toss. Taking place on on Saturday, September 29 in an open grass area of Memorial Park, just west of 5th Street, their objective is to construct a trebuchet to see which team can launch a pumpkin the furthest. It won’t be an easy task, as skilled students of the School of Mines will also be competing.

There is no reason, however, to doubt the Cobbler teams that will be competing to take the top places. Two years ago, Cobbler teams won first and fourth-place, surprisingly beating out the Hardrocker teams.

“We ended up performing well,” said Josh French, a senior at Central High School and former fourth place finisher. “We could have gotten third if we had added an extra cement bag for weight, giving our trebuchet more launch power.”

But no matter which team launches a pumpkin the furthest, or if a team can’t even make their trebuchet work at all, the learning experience is substantial for all participants.

“Students interested in engineering fields can get an idea of what college life and career life would be like in the future,” said Robert Riggs, the physics teacher at Central High School. “It can be stressful work, but students have enjoyed it.”

French also said he had a “fantastic time,” and heavily enjoyed the competition.

Two teams of 12 will be competing from Dr. Riggs’s physics class. This will be the third year his students have entered the big competition, while in years past, students had  made smaller trebuchets and launched gourds before the main event of tossing pumpkins.

Photo of the winning 2016 Cobbler team courtesy of Dr. Riggs