Students get physics lesson while watching objects hurled and smashed


By Curtis Wildfong • Last Updated 10:27 am on Thursday, October 31, 2013

Students at Baldwin Heights Elementary School in Greenville watch in awe as a trebuchet launches a gallon of milk across the schoolyard during a science display put on by the Cranbrook Institute of Science. — Daily News/Curtis Wildfong

GREENVILLE — A pumpkin in motion tends to stay in motion … that is until it smashes into the ground a couple hundred feet from where it was launched by a trebuchet.

Physics was the lesson Wednesday morning as Baldwin Heights Elementary School students stood in awe of a metal pumpkin flinger as it launched one projectile after another across the school’s playground.

“It’s so heavily related to the science we teach the kids and that’s the best part,” said Baldwin Heights Principal Mike Walsh. “The kids get so excited.”

Cranbrook Institute of Science’s trebuchet is shown as it launches a pumpkin through the air during a demonstration for students of Baldwin Heights Elementary School in Greenville. — Daily News/Curtis Wildfong

After a quick lesson on torque, leverage and weights, students from the first through fifth grades bundled up and lined each side of the “medieval teeter-totter,” as referenced by Mike Toth of the Cranbook Institute of Science who put on the demonstration.

As he loaded the first load of apples into the sling, Toth reminded the kids how the device operated.

“We put torque into the trebuchet, and that’s how it works,” he told the students.

With the help of a few students pulling the rope that triggered the launch, off went the half dozen apples. Then it was a watermelon and a gallon of milk and finally a pumpkin.

Little remained of the pumpkins launched by a metal trebuchet owned by Cranbrook Institute of Science. — Daily News/Curtis Wildfong

“Ooh … aah” the entire crowd of more than 300 kids let out as the objects flew over their playground and smashed into pieces as they hit the ground.

The theme of the day was ask questions about how things work.

“That’s how I got into this,” Toth explained. “I saw a trebuchet on TV and wanted to build one. So I asked my parents and teachers how to build one and then I did. They are really easy to build, they are just teeter-totters.”

To learn more about trebuchets or the Cranbrook Institute, visit www.science.cranbrook.edu online.

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