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Students Get Ready to Chuck Pumpkins

Engineering, Physics Teams Contenders in Saturday's Community Competition

Oct. 30, 2013

Pumpkin Launcher Construction

Brian Montes (from left), Adrian Cortez, Josh Vargas and Eric Kim from CSUF’s student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers ready their launcher for Saturday's Pumpkin Launch competition.

Armed with their redesigned slingshot-style pumpkin chucker, students on the all-female student engineering team have their eyes on winning the coveted first-place prize: the Pumpkin Trophy. In past Pumpkin Launch competitions, the Society of Women Engineers student chapter has come close, garnering second- and third-place finishes.

"We're keeping our original design of a slingshot-style launcher, but with slight modifications to improve in accuracy," said Alexandra Dominguez, Society of Women Engineers CSUF chapter president and mechanical engineering major.

The Physics Club team also is hoping to improve the accuracy and distance of its 7-foot tall slingshot launcher — and the team's score.

"Last year, the Physics Club team kept grazing the targets, which was hilarious — and frustrating," recalled Nousha Afshari, physics club officer and team captain, whose team competed for the first time last fall. "This year, we hope to, at least, place in the competition."

These two student teams are among the field of 17 Cal State Fullerton and community teams set to fling pumpkins far and high in the sixth annual Pumpkin Launch this Saturday, Nov. 2. The event, held rain or shine, on the athletics fields, north of Titan Gym, is presented by Cal State Fullerton and the Discovery Science Center.

Expected to attract more than 7,100 spectators, the fall tradition also features hands-on engineering activities for children, beginning at 10 a.m., with pumpkin launches starting at 12:30 p.m. To see photos of CSUF teams readying for the competition, go online.

Six CSUF teams are competing, including the student chapters of the American Society of Civil Engineers, American Society of Mechanical Engineers/Society of Automotive Engineers, Engineers for the Advancement of Society and Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. The Society of Automotive Engineers is the only CSUF team to ever win first place, achieved in 2008.

Using engineering and physics principles, the object of the competition is to hit the various targets and rack up the most points. Students agree that it's not an easy job to build the perfect pumpkin launcher — from giant trebuchets, catapults and other homemade devices — that will send a gourd between 90 to 300 feet aloft, smack-dab into a target.

"Building and improving a pumpkin launcher is tough," noted Afshari, a double major in physics and business administration. "The physics team had to calculate the best angle for the ramp, adjust the dimensions of the launcher to accommodate the tension of the slingshot and the weight of the pumpkin, and make a number of trips to Home Depot for supplies."

Dominguez explained that her team members also have been putting their engineering skills to the test to enhance their launcher: "This is a chance for members to show their creativity and apply what they have been learning in class. It's also a chance for students to get experience in an engineering project, and to interact and bond with other club members."

The student teams agreed that most of all, they are looking forward to the friendly competition.

"We put a lot of time and had fun building the slingshot," said Afshari. "We can't wait to launch pumpkins!"

To see the 2012 Pumpkin Launch, watch the video.

Media Contacts:

Victor Delgado, College of Engineering and Computer Science, 657-278-2887,
Debra Cano Ramos, 657-278-4027,

Tags:  Events