Henderson Pumpkin Chuckin’ 2004 Double Crossbow

During my sophomore year in high school, my Physics 1 professor held a pre-Halloween pumpkin chucking contest adjacent to our building. Although it was nowhere on the same scale as the “World Championship Punkin’ Chunkin’“, it still left memories of the fundamentals of engineering design. The contest was a test of accuracy, requiring us to hurl small weighted hollow plastic pumpkins ~30 feet at a 2-foot diameter cauldron using the machines we built. Pumpkins only counted if they landed in the target or bounced off the inner sides. Of course, no contest would pass without variety: while some opted for spring-loaded catapults, others used slingshots and inclined planes. And one person used a crossbow…

It took about a week to fashion the device you see below, designed and constructed with assistance from my neighbor Mr. Richard Bussom – the same person who would help realize my “Tesla Coil Graduation Project” two years later. Built from scrap 2×6 and 2×4 planks, an armful of PVC and CPVC tubing, a large PVC cap, plus miscellaneous hardware, it was immediately recognizable from afar that a war was to be won. Hopes rose when I finally fired the “Double Crossbow” the day it was completed.

Unfortunately, reality (and God) dictated otherwise: no matter how much I pre-tensioned the CPVC piping, adjusted the firing angles, and waited on the wind outside my house, the synthetic pumpkin wouldn’t sail more than 25 feet horizontally. There simply wasn’t enough initial velocity behind it to overcome the aerodynamic drag, and using something other than CPVC pipes for bows would’ve fallen outside of funding constraints. So come contest day, it held true: the winning team used a simple slingshot that hit on target every time. I ended up placing nowhere high, adding another notch to the failures of many inventors, understanding the importance of simplification, and intelligently learning from mistakes. But in spite of all this, I still had a lot of fun, and it continued my passion for working my mind and hands.