Medieval-looking constructions of every shape and size lined the Merced College practice soccer fields on the afternoon of Wednesday, Nov. 14.
Basketballs routinely took flight as the Physics 4A classes competed in the Physics Department’s bi-annual Siege Weapons Competition, putting their designs and skill to the test.
“We introduce the concept of the competition on the first day, and watch student interest grow from there,” Physics Professor Lana Jordan said. “They learn the kinematics necessary to make the mechanisms work, buy their own supplies, and spend a month building.”
Students earned an A for the exercise by firing a basketball 15 meters. To win the competition, however, students needed to sets their goals a little higher. The competition consisted of 65 physics students broken into groups. Once the groups are formed, they study YouTube videos and draw blueprints in an effort to find the best angles. The teams build prototypes, often trebuchets or catapults, dedicating significant time and funds toward erecting the best structures for the competition.
Student Natalie Nuñez explained that the practice stages can be both humbling and entertaining.
“We meet for four hours, two days a week, and we’re just trying to see what works best.” Nuñez said. “Sometimes, catapults break, which is awesome to watch, but it helps us to test the different methods.”
Professor Jordan agreed that troubleshooting is often the best part of watching the students compete.
“Watching them is pure joy,” Jordan said. “They’re trying to fix things on the spot, and it gets tools in the hands of students who may not have ever built something. It really works well for everyone.”
This year’s winning team had a launch of 53 meters.
-- Alessandria Pedretti