University of Rochester

EVENT: Pumpkins to be Launched across Campus in Halloween Engineering Contest

October 26, 2009

Student-built contraptions will hurl pumpkins, aiming for distance and precision, in eighth annual competition

Local students will test their engineering prowess by slinging pumpkins with catapults and trebuchets of their own design on the day before Halloween in what has come to be one of the campus's most entertaining and anticipated rituals.

The eighth annual Pumpkin Launch, hosted by the University of Rochester chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), will take place on the University's Wilson Quad at 3 p.m., Friday, Oct. 30.

For the event, teams made up of students from area colleges, high schools, and middle schools design and construct launching devices with the goal of hurling a pumpkin as far as possible (within reason) without sacrificing accuracy.

Because hollowed-out pumpkins tend to explode when flung hundreds of feet in the air, there can be some discrepancies about where exactly a given pumpkin came to rest. For this reason, each team sticks a bag of Skittles in its projectile, and the landing spot of the Skittles is the point from which all distances are measured.

A team is allowed four launches in which to prove its machine's range and accuracy. Targets are set up at 75 feet, 125 feet, and 250 feet from the launch site and each team's score is calculated by taking the distance of the farthest shot (up to 400 feet), and subtracting two times the distance from one of the targets of the most accurate shot.

The highest possible score is 400.

Cash prizes are given to the winners. In addition to the traditional contest, awards are also given for longest hang time, best team spirit, coolest looking launcher, and best mechanical design.

For more information or a complete list of rules, visit

What: 2009 ASME Pumpkin Launch
Who: College, high school, and middle school students from around Rochester
When: Friday, Oct. 30, at 3 p.m. (weigh-in at 2:30 p.m.)
Where: Wilson Quadrangle (on River Campus, next to Wilson Commons)

***Media who would like to cover the event: Please contact Alan Blank for details and parking instructions.