Mechanical engineering students launch STEM education with annual Pumpkin Chunkin’

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For the members of Rowan’s chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), October means that it’s time to start assembling trebuchets for one of the club’s biggest events of the year: Pumpkin Chunkin’.

A trebuchet is defined as a kind of catapault with a long arm to throw projectiles, common as weapon of seige prior to the invention of gunpowder cannons. For ASME, though, a trebuchet is an ideal way for students to learn and apply fundemental skills of mechanics through friendly competition. By inviting teams from local high schools, ASME encourages those interested in an engineering career to start honing their skills early.

“I think it’s a good way to be recognized,” Millville High School eleventh-grader Kalani Flores said of the event. “We have been getting a lot of recognition lately through the music and engineering programs, and it makes me happy to have a positive recognition.”

Teams for ASME’s 2019 Pumpkin Chunkin’ event each made their own trebuchets, which competed against one another in the South Jersey Tech Park. – Editor-in-Chief / Tara Lonsdorf

Flores captained one of Millville’s three teams at the competition; theirs is blue, and features an electric winch which is safer than a mechanical winch. One of Millville’s teams has won for each of the previous three years, making them the ones to beat for the other competing teams.

Along with current high school students, Millville also invites alumni to compete on their Pumpkin Chunkin’ teams – such as Shane McCarron, an alum who currently studies mechanical engineering at Rowan College of South Jersey.

“This is our [Millville High School’s] fourth year here. This is my third year,” McCarron explained of Millville High School’s Pumpkin Chunkin’ legacy. “The first year here, we won first and second places. The second year, [two Millville High School trebuchets also] won second and first. The third year, last year, unfortunately two trebuchets broke; one tied for first, but unfortunately broke in the tiebreaker and came in second. This year, we’re hoping to get all three top places, obviously.”

Junior mechanical engineering major and ASME Events Coordinator Lia Mahoney discusses scoring for the trebuchet competition with Rowan physics professor Dr. Gerald Votta at the South Jersey Tech Park. – Editor-in-Chief / Tara Lonsdorf

According to ASME Volunteer Chair and junior mechanical engineering major Robin Seazholtz, incorporating high school students into the event is one way that Rowan’s chapter can give back to the South Jersey community.

“It is a great way for high schoolers to get a taste of the engineering field in a friendly competition,” Seazholtz said. “It is a good way to connect local engineering schools together and also connect with local engineering employers.”

The event also featured Halloween-themed events and crafts for younger kids not able to build their own trebuchets.

Junior mechanical engineering majors Robin Seazholtz (back right), Brittney Nickel (front left), and Leo Thottumari (front right) participate in the Pumpkin Chunkin’ pumpkin carving competition. – Editor-in-Chief / Tara Lonsdorf

ASME Events Coordinatior junior mechanical engineering major Lia Mahoney considers the event an overall success due to the execution of masterfully-crafted machinery, as well as the positive experiences of the participants.

“Everyone, especially the competing teams, were able to have fun and enjoy themselves,” Mahoney said.

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