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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Corbin Coulter could have built a volcano.

But for his STEM project in Jennifer Sexton’s third-grade class, the Lakeview Elementary student wanted to think a little bigger — in the form of a 5-foot-tall and 5-foot-long, pumpkin-flinging catapult.

He didn’t expect that catapult to earn him an invitation to the Bloomington Pumpkin Launch, courtesy of Bill Ream with the Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department. On Nov. 4, Corbin Coulter was the youngest participant at the annual competition at the Monroe County Fairgrounds, and the only launcher in this year’s “youth” category.

His trebuchet — one of the smallest at the competition, but considerably taller than Corbin himself — managed to fling four or five 8-pound pumpkins around 20 feet before its lift arm bent too badly to continue.

But for the first trebuchet he’s ever entered in a competition, that performance was just fine.

“It was a fun experience for them, for sure,” said Jessica Coulter, Corbin’s mother, of her son and husband’s first pumpkin launch.

The trebuchet for Corbin’s class project, which they took to the competition, was not the first catapult father and son have built together. Cory Coulter says he has built one every year for the past three or four years, and Corbin has helped more and more as he has gotten older and bigger.

But Corbin, who turned 9 in mid-October, has been dabbling in engineering since he turned his attention to catapults. Even as a baby, his favorite toys have been LEGOs and other things that require assembly. Whenever his parents do home maintenance projects, Corbin hovers around to lay claim to the best leftover materials, like old doors, which he uses for forts.

But catapults are extra cool, he says, “because you get to throw stuff.”

For Corbin’s project, father and son found an online simulator that would allow them to input dimensions for their trebuchet and model, roughly, how it would work in real life. They chose one of the more basic templates and got to work, spending five hours over two days building the contraption in Corbin’s grandfather’s garage.

“Corbin did all the measurements and marking,” as well as putting in all of the screws, his father said. “I did all the cutting.”

They tested their trebuchet with croquet balls before demonstrating it with real pumpkins for Corbin’s class at Lakeview in early October. His classmates were impressed, oohing and ahhing over how far the pumpkins flew. School staff filmed the demonstration and posted the video to Facebook, where it received more than 1,200 views before the end of the month.

As part of his class assignment, Corbin also explained some of the scientific principles behind his trebuchet: namely, kinetic and potential energy. The same week he demonstrated his project, Lakeview named him one of its “STEM specialists of the week.”

“Definitely, it was his first big science project,” said his mother with a laugh.

Just getting to participate in the launch was a great experience, but Corbin particularly enjoyed getting to meet and speak with the other, older teams. Cory Coulter said the other local engineering hobbyists, makers and tinkerers in the competition were friendly and approachable, dropping by to admire the Coulters’ creation and offer pointers. He said they received a lot of good feedback and tips, particularly on the “pouch” in which the pumpkin rests, which had been giving the father-son team a bit of trouble.

“They were all very helpful, and they were all excited for Corbin to be there and see some younger kids get into it,” Cory said. Several of them told the Coulters to reach out for them if they needed any advice on future launchers.

The two will likely be taking their new friends up on those offers for help. In fact, Corbin is already planning a bigger catapult for next year’s entry.

And in 2018, he wants to compete against the adults.


Source: The (Bloomington) Herald-Times


Information from: The Herald Times,