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Saturday, November 6, 2010

Chunkin marks 25 years
Young participants don't rely on parents; youth division piques engineering interest


The Chunksters team makes a launch with its catapult on Day 1 at Punkin Chunkin 2010 in Bridgeville. Chunkin continues today and Sunday. Gates open at 7:30 a.m., with competition beginning at 8:30 a.m. Tickets are $9; those under age 10 are free. Parking is $2. (Amanda Rippen White photo)
November 6, 2010
from the Salisbury, MD DAILY TIMES
BRIDGEVILLE -- Watching pumpkins fly thousands of feet across the fields of Sussex County can be exciting, but for competitors of the 25th annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin, the competition is about so much more.

"Just look at what these people can do," said Milford resident Randy Reynolds, who is supporting his 7-year-old son in this year's competition. "If you're out here, you're not seeing huge sponsorships. The majority of these people are doing it on their own dime, in their backyards, with trial and error."
What began as a three-team event in Lewes in 1986 has grown to include 112 teams, more than 2,500 competitors and an estimated 100,000 attendees for the three-day competition.
Punkin Chunkin draws spectators and competitors from around the country and has even caught the attention of the Science Channel, which airs a special about the competition on Thanksgiving.
Preparation for next year's event will begin immediately after the last pumpkin is launched.
Reynolds said his son became interested in the event after seeing the special on television. He began fiddling around in his father's woodshop and eventually joined a youth division team that will compete this weekend.
"The kids have to do everything from cocking it to loading it to shooting it," Reynolds said. "Adults are there to make sure they don't do anything that's unsafe but, at the same time, everything is on them."
Wilmington-based Sanford School has fielded a team for the past 10 years. Each June, a group of students begins work on the school's trebuchet, which has been altered slightly each year since its creation in 2005.
Physics and mathematics teacher Jon Roberts said it's a great introduction to engineering for his students.
"We are there as guides, but they pretty much run it themselves," he said. "It's their baby."
Fellow teacher and head coach Andre Dagenais said participation in Punkin Chunkin has sparked an interest in engineering for many of his former students. The student who created the design for the current trebuchet is in his junior year at Rowan College in New Jersey.

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