WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — The 13th Annual Wright-Patterson Pumpkin Chuck will again launch orange gourds thousands of feet through the skies behind the National Museum of the United States Air Force from 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27.
Entry to the event is free and open to all base personnel and the general public through the Spinning Road Gate located at the intersection of Spinning and Airway roads.
The “Pumpkin Chuck” is an awareness event for the Combined Federal Campaign, the world’s largest and most successful annual workplace charity campaign, according to the campaign’s website. The CFC has supported the fundraising efforts of thousands of charities over the last 50 years through pledges by federal civilian, postal and military donors. Besides raising awareness for the cause, the event is just plain community fun.
“There will be music, food, kid’s activities and loads of fun just watching pumpkins flying down range with these awesome chucking machines,” said Travis Flanagan, event chair for the Pumpkin Chuck event. “There will also be time allotted for spectators to wander out, admire the machines and meet with the teams that competed that day.”
The competition is broken into three classes of pumpkin-flinging machines along with a pumpkin pie bake off. Class A machines are the largest and most complicated, launching 8-to-10-pound pumpkins with ease, while Class B machines hurl smaller 2-pound orange squashes. While both can be impressive to see, you don’t have to be an engineer to get into the gourd-tossing action.
“Spectators can join in the fun as well with our Class C human chucker machine,” Flanagan said. “You can sign up with a team of four and try to hit a target that is down range a few hundred feet away.”
For competitors, it can be a thrill to compete and share a passion for technology.
“It is really fun to interact with the crowd and see their excitement about science and engineering, especially the young people,” said David H. Mollenhauer, a senior materials engineer in the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. “Also, the other competitors are great folks and their machines are worth seeing in action.”
Mollenhauer has seen plenty of that action, having competed here for the last decade. He is the captain of Team ETHOS, the reigning champions of the Wright-Patt “Pumpkin Chuck” for the past seven years and two-time World Championship winners. Mollenhauer says that it’s not always enjoyable launching pumpkins, but it’s worth it.
“Competitions are stressful and not entirely fun. However, it is the culmination of a lot of engineering work and construction efforts,” Mollenhauer said. “It is really cool when the plan comes together. It is really painful when it doesn’t.”
Besides being an awareness event for the CFC, Mollenhauer says it’s a great way for engineers, new and experienced, to get their hands dirty doing something they love.
“In my daily job, we typically get to work on laboratory specimens of small size and low complexity,” Mollenhauer said. “This project has allowed me to experience what a manufacturer goes through to produce a product: the requirements, the constraints, the economics, the compromises, the defeats, and the joy — all on something more complex and larger scale than a laboratory test.”
Whether it’s a drive for competition or just a desire to watch 10-pound pumpkins soar through the air, landing with a resounding “thump,” Flanagan says it’s a great way to spend the day.
“It’s a fall-time tradition at Wright-Patt that just shouldn’t be missed,” Flanagan said. “Come on out and have a good time raising awareness for the CFC.”
More details on the “Pumpkin Chuck” and how to participate can be found at https://www.facebook.com/PumpkinChuckDayton/.
Story courtesy of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.