Clover High science students seek another state catapult title

rsouthmayd@heraldonline.comNovember 6, 2013 

— The sounds of sawing, welding, and drilling ring out every weekday afternoon, from a shed behind Clover High School.

More than a dozen students scramble around mechanical devices, making adjustments in their quest to build the best catapult.

Yes, a catapult.

Each year, under the direction of science teacher Tom Dissington, students work in the first few months of school to prepare for the state competition, which is sponsored by the Theta Tau engineering fraternity at the University of South Carolina.

Eighteen teams, including Clover, will compete Saturday for the state title.

“Our goal is to do better than we did last year,” said senior Amanda Priestley, who is a lead engineer on one of the two catapults. “But of course, we also really want to be three-time state champs.”

That would mean using their catapult, which can be no taller than five feet, to hurl a 2.5-pound ball 90 feet.

“We’ve made a lot of changes in the last few days,” Priestley said, pointing out railroad spikes and additional bracing.

Her team, Team Indecisive, needed to work on better absorbing the impact and reducing friction, she said.

The other team, Medieval Airmail, was working on finishing touches, Dissington said.

“You have to try and tweak everything to get it ready,” said junior Jennifer Starcher.

Activities such as this are good for students, Starcher said. She wants to study engineering and drafting in college.

At Tuesday afternoon’s meeting, her team was changing their catapult’s arm length, adding metal to reinforce it and changing the weight distribution.

“This is all about science,” Dissington said. “It’s all about what can we do to get kids more involved in building and machining and mechanics and what better way to do something than to build a catapult?”

And although they’re taking Saturday’s competition seriously, Starcher said they’re all looking forward to what happens after the formal competition is over.

“We get to catapult pumpkins,” she said.

Rachel Southmayd •  803-329-4072

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