University of Puget Sound's Physics Club
Jenna Boykoff and Erik Tollerud
This past spring, the University of Puget Sound's Physics Club built a trebuchet as a long-term outreach project. A group of approximately ten students designed and executed a plan for the trebuchet. The intent was that this would be a fun, hands-on way to study projectile motion in a fashion accessible to all. The base was about 8 ft tall, and with the arm extended, about 15 ft. The trebuchet cost approximately $125 to complete, and funding was provided by the Associated Students of the University of Puget Sound. It was made mostly out of wood and metal, and sandbags were used as counterweights.
When the trebuchet was completed, the physics club hosted a launch party to test what they had built. Many students and professors from all disciplines came to support the Physics Club. Potatoes, bagels, water balloons, lettuce, apples, and oranges were launched. These tests determined that the oranges, which traveled about 50 m, went the furthest.
Through the project, the students learned lessons about ground-up project design and construction. Creating the three dimensional design of the trebuchet was an exercise in spatial thinking, and the variety of enhancements and changes made after the initial design taught important lessons about ad-hoc alterations to experiment. Being able to launch items of different sizes and weights at many different speeds and angles was also a unique new way to view a familiar, seemingly basic problem. The non-physics students that watched the trebuchet launch were impressed by what the club had done, and many were intrigued by the show of what applied physics has to offer.
Further plans for the trebuchet include more quantitative experiments, potentially including experimental tests of launch angle to distance relationships, force measurements, and studies of vibrational energy losses.
> Re: Contest Rules
> Tell us about your physics department! The Nucleus
> wants you to share
> an interesting story about a compelling
> event or activity involving
> students in your physics
> department from the past year. This event might be
> a field trip, a social event, a guest speaker, or
> anything else your department did in the past year
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> chosen by The Nucleus staff) will
> receive pizza parties
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