Locked & loaded.
While the other students at Highland Community College In Freeport, Ill, are poring over notes and cramming for exams, Instructor Eric Peterson's statics and dynamics class is applying physics and engineering lessons, medieval style. Peterson's class, working with the school's physical science club, designs, builds and fires a medieval trebuchet as a final class project. This semester's creation was the largest ever built at HCC, standing 44 feet high with a 3,000-pound counterweight. Peterson describes the trebuchet as the nuclear weapon of Its day, able to fling a 250-pound object more than half a mile. Over 300 high-school students, teachers and curiosity-seekers braved a cold rain and heavy fog to watch the trebuchet fling an 80-pound cement-filled basketball, a bowling ball and a pumpkin. The basketball soared 93 meters, topping 58 miles per hour. The bowling ball cleared 103 meters. But the crowd favorite was the pumpkin, which slipped through the sling on launch due to the weather conditions and sailed 51 meters backwards before splattering against a fence.