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Students have fun, learn science in Tomato Launch

Posted: October 9, 2013 - 10:12am
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Student Meghan Whitfield, right, uses her homemade launcher to fling tomatoes into the air as part of the  annual Tomato Launch Competition at North Augusta High School in North Augusta Thursday morning October 3, 2013.     Michael Holahan / Staff  MICHAEL HOLAHAN
MICHAEL HOLAHAN
Student Meghan Whitfield, right, uses her homemade launcher to fling tomatoes into the air as part of the annual Tomato Launch Competition at North Augusta High School in North Augusta Thursday morning October 3, 2013. Michael Holahan / Staff

It’s not every day students get to hurl tomatoes.

Students in Kathy Gam-bill’s physics class at North Augusta High School got to do just that on Thursday morning during the 11th annual Tomato Launch.

“I’m teaching projectile motion, so that’s how this ties into the curriculum,” said Gambill. “This is their first experience trying to be engineers.”

Students built machines over the past few weeks to launch tomatoes with hopes of hitting a the center of a hula hoop placed on the ground a little more than 62 feet away.

Teams had to design and build an adjustable machine without knowing the exact distance – only that the target would be somewhere between 60 and 70 feet away. No electronics were allowed to be used in the contraptions.

“The beauty of that is that’s really what engineering is all about, building something that fits the need,” she said.

Barrett Wells said that the project was a learning experience for him and his team.

“We had to figure out how to get a strong base, get something that’s strong enough to hit the target,” he said.

The team practiced with tennis balls and even an apple in preparation for Thursday’s competition, he said.

Meghan Whitfield had an exciting moment when she launched a tomato and it hit inside of the hula hoop.

“This has been the best experience,” she said of the project.

Team Earthy Crunchy took the win in the competition, coming within an inch of the center of the hula hoop.

The large machine was colored in a light blue with handprints all over it. The design was inspired by the movie Timeline, said team member Juliann Lloyd.

The name, however, was inspired by one of their friends, said fellow team member Katie Cohen.

“We came up with the name Earthy Crunch because it’s one of her favorite things to say,” she said, adding that their friend had been diagnosed with junior arthritis, “ so it’s kind of a tribute to her.”

Members of the winning team received T-shirts.

In addition to designing and building the machine, the students had to complete a report and answer 11 questions, said Gambill.

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