WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — Teams and individuals are scheduled to launch hundreds of pumpkins thousands of feet into the air at the 14th Annual Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Pumpkin Chuck slated for 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2 on the grounds behind the National Museum of the United States Air Force.
Entry to the event is free and open to all base personnel and the general public through the Spinning Road Gate located at the intersection of Spinning and Airway roads.
Pumpkin Chuck is an Air Force Science, Technology, Engineering and Math event put on annually by Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Engineering. Besides being a fun fall community event, it’s designed to provide increased awareness of Wright-Patt’s STEM outreach program.
“Our goal is to promote engineering at an event where people can translate things like physics — when it comes to things like catapults, stored energy and rates of velocities — into something they can see in action,” said Travis Flanagan, Pumpkin Chuck event chair. “The end goal is that we want to encourage folks to get engineering degrees and maybe someday come work for the Air Force.”
The competition is broken into three classes of pumpkin-flinging machines. Class A machines are the largest and most complicated, launching 8 to 10-pound pumpkins several thousand feet, while Class B machines hurl smaller 2-pound orange squashes. Class C are human-powered machines where teams can also sign-up onsite to compete on a novice-friendly version, if they don’t want to build their own.
There will also be a STEM-focused area where visitors can learn about the physics of the machines, calculate expected ranges and speeds and then try it out for themselves on kid-friendly versions. Guests can also get hands-on experiences with creating and flying straw rockets as well as learning from local competitive robotics teams.
Flanagan says he hopes the event will be a catalyst to inspire the next generation of engineers. For Flanagan, it was watching air shows that prompted him to want to be an aircraft mechanic. He served four years in the Air Force as an A-10 Warthog crew chief before deciding to pursue a degree in electrical engineering.
“When you get to know a system pretty well, you start to complain about things, like, ‘How can I make this better?’” Flanagan said. “I thought, ‘I could go to school, be an engineer and then come back and help design airplanes, which is what I do now.”
Organizers said they hope Pumpkin Chuck has that same ability to motivate today’s youth to get excited about science.
“It’s cool to come out and see the different ways you can apply [science] to the same kind of problem,” said Michael Schneider, a doctorate student at the Air Force Institute of Technology and creator and steward of the Class C human-powered machine, referencing how while all of the pumpkin chucking machines do the same thing – throw pumpkins – each machine does it differently. “For kids to get a real hands on understanding of what you can do with engineering, what you can do with math and science, is critical for them to realize why it’s so important to learn.”
Visitors to Pumpkin Chuck can also enjoy music, a children’s bouncy house, food trucks and even a pie eating contest.
More details on the “Pumpkin Chuck” and how to participate can be found at https://www.facebook.com/PumpkinChuckDayton/.