The World Championship Punkin Chunkin competition is a yearly tradition where over a hundred teams compete to see who can throw pumpkins the furthest using all manner of crazy contraptions. Of particular note to SOLIDWORKS users is The American Chunker team, winners of the competition in both 2013 and 2016. They’re using , and SOLIDWORKS Simulation (as well as physical testing) to replicate every aspect of the pumpkin in flight, and to understand what happens to the pumpkin when it breaks the speed of sound. Yes, that’s right, these pumpkins will break the speed of sound, while travelling over 4,500 feet!
Originally posted on the SOLIDWORKS blog here, Mike Fearon investigated what it takes to become a Punkin Chunkin champ. We hope you enjoy the article – make sure to watch the video at the end to see it in action. It really has to be seen to be believed!
The humble pumpkin – not just for eating
Pumpkins play an important role in our fall holidays. A member of the gourd family, pumpkins are carved up to create Jack-o-lanterns for Halloween and play a starring role in the delicious pies we all love to eat at Thanksgiving feasts. These versatile members of the gourd family come in a variety of colours and sizes and are native to Central America and Mexico but now grown on six continents.
As much as people enjoy carving and eating them, they also love to throw, or “chuck,” them. In fact, launching pumpkins into the air has evolved into a sport of sorts. Every year thousands of people gather in Delaware to participate in Punkin Chunkin, an intense national competition to determine who can hurl or “chuck” a pumpkin the farthest using solely mechanical means.
Might sound pretty simple, but there’s some serious science and engineering behind the sport of chucking pumpkins, and Punkin Chunkin covers every angle from growing special, aerodynamic pumpkins and determining the perfect pumpkin’s mass to the mechanics of the air cannon and the physics of catapults.
The World Championship Punkin Chunkin
The World Championship Punkin Chunkin, an annual three-day event sponsored by the World Championship Punkin Chukin Association (WCPCA), is the oldest and largest of the competitions and has been held since 1986. Each year 115 teams from across the country and abroad compete in this action-packed, squash-slinging event.
The machines used to launch the pumpkins in Punkin Chunkin include slingshots, catapults, centrifuges, medieval-style Trebuchets, and pneumatic cannons. The range achieved by these devices depends upon multiple factors including: mass, shapes, size, yield limits, stiffness, pitch, elevation of hurler, and weather conditions.
The Guinness world record shot is held by team that used a pneumatic cannon, dubbed the “Big 10 Inch”, to launch a pumpkin 5,545.43 feet (1,690.25 M) on September 9th, 2010. To accomplish this feat, the team placed the pumpkin in a tube with a valve separating it from a large tank of high-pressure air. The second farthest chuck on record (3,636.39 feet) was accomplished using a torsion device that uses twisted rope as its primary source of power.
At the Punkin Chukin competition, pumpkins that burst upon leaving the barrel or sling of the launch machine—dubbed “pie” shots (short for “pumpkin pie in the sky”—result in the “shot” being disqualified by WCPC rules. Though no pumpkin has yet to be launched a mile, in order for one to do so it would need to be chucked faster than the speed of sound—770 mph.