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Clarence team hopes to catapult to victory in annual trebuchet contest

October is here, which means it’s time for scary costumes, haunted houses and Halloween candy being sold everywhere you look.

But for students at some area high schools, October brings on a new meaning. October is the month of the Great Pumpkin Farm’s Trebuchet Contest, a competition they’ve been preparing for since last school year.

Clarence High School’s Engineering Club, advised by James Cramer, Thomas Maroney, Sean Murray and Jason Urbanek, has been working diligently for months to prepare its newly designed trebuchet for the contest, which takes place this weekend in Clarence.

A trebuchet is defined as an engine of war with a sling used for hurling objects. The trebuchet dates back to medieval times, when it was used to hurl large stones over long distances in the 12th century.

"It started actually last year after the competition," says Anthony Mele, a senior in Engineering Club. "We placed in second, but we were starting to realize that the trebuchet that we had couldn’t really be modified any more to throw farther, so the club members realized that we needed a new design."

Anthony was asked by the advisors to do some research into newer and more efficient designs, and made a new design using Autodesk Inventor, an online design application.

From there, according to sophomore Megan Wojciechowski, Anthony began building a prototype at the end of last school year. He then used that prototype to make a half-size model, which was the basis for the team’s full-size model, which will be used in competition. The team began building the full-size model in the second week of school.

"Every piece was designed on the computer," Megan said.

Clarence’s Engineering Club only designs a new trebuchet every five or six years, making modifications to their old designs in other years. This makes this year’s competition a crucial one for the team.

This year’s contest, the 12th annual, will take place Sunday at The Great Pumpkin Farm in Clarence. Instead of hurling stones as was done long ago, the trebuchets will hurl 6- to 8-pound pumpkins.

"All the trebuchets are set up in a straight line," says Christian Post, another senior in the club. "We first throw for the accuracy competition, and we get three shots for that. Then, we go for distance."

Christian also explained that the schools go down the line and shoot their pumpkins to see who earns different amounts of points. The school with the most points at the end of the competition will be crowned the winner.

Last year, Depew High School took first prize, beating out more than a dozen area schools to win the honors.

The school that wins the competition on Sunday will receive a trophy and monetary prize to continue and grow their school’s technology education. Roughly one dozen schools from across Western New York are signed up to compete this year besides Clarence, including Williamsville South, Pioneer, North Tonawanda, and last year’s winner, Depew.

Each student seems to get different things out of participating in this event. However, all the students agreed that seeing it work on competition day and seeing all of their hours of hard work pay off will be very rewarding.

The 12th Annual Trebuchet Contest will be held Sunday at 10 a.m. at The Great Pumpkin Farm, 11199 Main St., Clarence.

Some of the participating schools will be at the Farm on Saturday for practice shots.

Admission tickets for The Great Pumpkin Farm are $7 (children 2 and under are free), and include many other activities in addition to the contest.

For more information, including a list of all competing schools, head to

Alex Renzoni is a sophomore at Clarence High School.


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