Monday, November 5, 2012
Nerds with trebuchets host first annual pumpkin chunking competitions
Pocket protectors required.
RICHARDSON After Halloween, families typically chunk their pumpkins in the trash. This year, however, one Collin County company is taking "chunking" a bit more literal.
Employees at AMX created a variety of slingshots, catapults, and trebuchets to launch 3-pound pumpkins Friday at the company's headquarters. Unlike other competitions where teams go for distance, the AMX teams were graded solely on their accuracy.
"We have some of the world leaders in engineering here, and we thought this would be a chance to do something completely different," said Steve Byars, a senior vice president with AMX. "The amazing thing is that most of them are shooting their pumpkins and they are getting within six feet of the target. The accuracy amazes me."
The contest was held in a field adjacent to the company's world headquarters, located in Richardson along the President George Bush Turnpike and Shiloh Road. When they are not launching pumpkins, the engineers design high-end control devices that are used to control lighting, sound and video at places such as Cowboys Stadium and the White House.
For Friday's contest, nine targets were set up, ranging in distance from 100 to 375 feet. Points were awarded for hitting the target and deducted for missing it.
Art Heald, team captain for Oh My Gourd, said designing the launchers was a team effort.
"The guy who built our slingshot put it together with spare parts from his garage," Heald said. "This is all about the team. We have the builder, the strategist, and the people doing the calculations. We have the MacGyver's of AMX out here."
As might be expected from a group of engineers, multiple calculations were made before each of the six launches.
"We are monitoring the tension in the springs, the trajectory, the weight of the pumpkin, and the wind speed," Heald said. "We determined that every tenth of a pound adds another 5 feet to the launch, and that each additional inch in diameter slows the pumpkin down another 5 feet."
When the dust settled on the pumpkin chunking, Heald and his team finished in second place out of the seven teams after scoring a direct hit on their final effort.
With the inaugural event a success, plans are already under way to make next year's even bigger and better, said Joe Andrulis, vice president of global marketing. With AMX's location near Plano's Research/Technology Crossroads District, there is no shortage of engineers in the area, a point not lost on Andrulis.
"We have kicked around the idea of doing a local league," he said. "We could invite engineers from Fujitsu and some of these other companies to put their engineering prowess up against ours."
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