Boyd-Buchanan hosts annual trebuchet, catapult competition

Jordan Raines, center, and Eli Legg of the Dark Knights launch a softball from their team's trebuchet as Boyd Buchanan physics students compete in the school's 10th annual trebuchet and catapult competition on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

A crowd of onlookers screamed as the all-girl team of "Ed, Edd and Eddy" used its homemade trebuchet machine to send a softball soaring 85 yards across the football field at Boyd-Buchanan School.

"It actually worked," yelled team member Asia Kirkman as she leaped in celebration after pulling the launch cord.

The group was one of 13 teams made up of some 40 physics students participating in the 10th annual Physics Trebuchet and Catapult Competition.

"Ed, Edd and Eddy" finished second only to the Benchwarmers, a team of athletes whose trebuchet flung a softball 87 yards.

Students set their own record in 2014 when a softball soared for 127 yards.

Physics and engineering teacher Jason Owens hosts the competition each year, giving students a hands-on demonstration of physics in action. Only physics and Advanced Placement physics students participated. The project provides a lesson in projectile motion, forces and Newton's laws of motion.

The trebuchet - war machinery used during medieval times for hurling large stones - took students nearly a month to build.

"When I was in high school, I wanted to do this," Owens said. "I just wanted the kids to have opportunity to build something themselves that works, something they can see come to life, kind of like Frankenstein. It's alive and it works."

Participants get bragging rights and some will get extra credit, Owens said.

Just earlier that morning, the "Ed, Edd and Eddy" team's machine broke when the wood splintered. The girls did the best they could to patch it up, but no one was sure what would happen until launch time, Kirkman said.

Hundreds of students filled the school stadium as the rock song "We Will Rock You" sounded across the football field.

Contestants lined up along the football field dressed out in tutus, hero capes and rock star sunglasses in fitting with their team name.

Team Skittles wore paint-splashed shirts, Team Extraterrestrial wore headbands with antennas, and Team Dark Knight wore Batman masks and capes.

Students designed and built their own trebuchets.

"It's hard work and a lot of little adjustments," said Devin Spiegelhalter of the Benchwarmers. "We had adversity but we overcame it."

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at or 757-6431.