The pumpkins didn't make it to porches around York County for Halloween. Instead, the orange, slightly misshapen globes at the West York school grounds were launched through the air Friday from machines reminiscent of Middle Ages warfare.
West York Area High School physics teacher Kevin Wolf organized the York County High Schools Punkin' Chunkin' Championship, a contest Wolf would like to establish as an annual event.
Wolf said the competition - which included six teams of up to five students - is a spin-off of contests the York Farm and Natural Lands Trust used to host at the York fairgrounds.
Wolf remembers those contests fondly, and has held similar competitions in his classes for the past several years.
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The winning team had to propel three pumpkins closest to a red flag 57 meters away, which is roughly 190 feet. Each team had three attempts and the distance from the flag was averaged. Teams hoped for a golf score: The lowest average distance from the flag won.
Five schools competed in the contest. Two teams competed from West York and there was representation from students at Dallastown Area High School, Spring Grove Area High School, Red Lion High School and York County School of Technology.
Wolf had all of his physics classes build catapults and trebuchets on a smaller scale, but students from his honors class competed in the competition.
Wolf secured a sponsorship from Carney Engineering Group for trophies and t-shirts for participants. Stauffer's of Kissel Hill donated the pumpkins that ended up as pulp on the fields behind the West York Middle School.
Joshua Carney, president of the engineering group, served as the event's judge. Carney approved each machine for safety and measured the distance each pumpkin flew.
Carney said he enjoys working with students and likes giving students a glimpse of what engineering can look like.
"There's not too many better ways to spend a Friday in the fall than launching pumpkins through the air," Carney said.
Wolf's students were given size requirements and were instructed to choose a model of catapult that would launch the pumpkins to the target distance.
West York junior Monica Toren said her team, dubbed The Fig Newtons, chose to use a mangonel catapult because they thought the simple model would work the best.
Toren said after the competition they would probably make some changes: The trebuchet models from other teams were able to launch the pumpkins longer distances.
The Fig Newtons placed fourth in the competition, with an average of 47.9 meters from the target.
The team from Dallastown took the first-place trophy and medals with a machine that senior Tyler Dolmetsch described as half trebuchet, half catapult.
Dolmetsch and his three teammates Katie Fritz, Jordan Woods and Josh Breighner are in one of Dallastown's AP Physics classes. The team launched the pumpkins about 160 feet, an average of 6.1 meters from the target.
The team worked for more than two weeks on the project, and worked extra hard after their first machine broke less than a week from the competition. But Fritz said she was confident the team would do well after doing countless test runs - some with a 10-pound bowling ball.
Fritz said she hopes Dallastown continues to compete in future years.
"It was cool to see physics go to use," Fritz said.
Wolf, the hosting West York teacher, said he would like to see the event expand to include more school districts in future years.
He also said he would like to establish sponsorships for participating teams to offset the cost of the project: Students worked outside of school to build the machines, and Wolf said his teams both spent about $200 of their own money to complete the catapults.
-Reach Nikelle Snader at email@example.com.