Smashing Pumpkins

Engineering students load a pumpkin into their team's trebuchet

Annual tradition features mechanical engineering ingenuity from first-year students Click here for…

Georgia (Oct 30, 2015)

Annual tradition features mechanical engineering ingenuity from first-year students

Click here for more photos from the event

KENNESAW, Ga. (Oct. 30, 2015) — Shouts of “fire in the hole” and loud cheers from spectators filled the damp fall air Oct. 29, as 10-pound pumpkins smashed across the open field between Norton and Howell halls on the Marietta Campus. 

The Pumpkin Launch, in its sixth year, lets first-year mechanical engineering students show off their engineering prowess.  The students designed and built human and gravity-powered inventions to hurl the pumpkins more than 150 feet, but hoped to land on a target 90 feet onto the field.

The 120 students worked in teams of eight to compete in the pumpkin-hurling tradition as part of their Intro to Mechanical Engineering course in the Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology. Students built launchers, which included catapults, trebuchets and slingshots.

“This pumpkin launch requires students to build efficient machines to launch things. It uses many mechanical engineering concepts that involve a lot of calculations, and there is a lot of engineering and physics involved,” said David Veazie, professor of mechanical engineering. “They rarely get to do design and hands-on activities this early in their academic careers, so this is a lot of fun for them.”

Using “purely mechanical” methods, the teams adhered to strict rules in the design and build process. Launchers could not use any chemical propellants or electricity in the competition.

“We definitely learned to measure three times and cut once,” said Landon Jones, a member of the Headless Horsemen team. “But we also learned about teamwork and persistence. We’re going (to compete) for distance.”  The team completed their invention’s final touches just hours before the competition began.

As part of the competition, restrictions were placed on the size of the launchers, as well as limits on the counterweight teams could use. 

“It is frustrating when it doesn’t work, but it has been a lot of fun,” said Meagan McCliment, a first-year mechanical engineering major. “We created a different design – a geared trebuchet with sprockets – and we had to compromise with everyone on the team to figure it out.”

According to Veazie, the restrictions didn’t seem to impact the students’ abilities to produce accurate and distant shots, however.  While not all of the launchers were able to propel their pumpkins very far, students earned a grade for their engineering designs and will also give classroom presentations and write a formal paper to complete the project.

Awards were given for the best pumpkin decoration to Team Tryna’ Smash, with their Super Smash Bros pumpkins; best accuracy to Team Average Joes; and greatest distance to Pumpkin Splatter for their 141-foot record.  

The Pumpkin Launch began six years ago when then-Southern Polytechnic State University was trying to develop an interesting experience for first-year students to help with student retention, according to Ron Lunk, director of Student Life at the Marietta Campus. 


- Tiffany Capuano; photo by David Caselli


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit