Punkin Chunkin Competition
ME1000 Fall 2012
Mechanical Engineering first-year students at the University of Utah just may have started a new tradition of chunkin punkins.  Although it could use a few minor modifications before reaching world championship status, 183 students did their part in getting things going.  Throughout the Fall semester students built their robots, which on November 27 they lined up to compete against their classmates.

Autonomous robots powered by the gravitational pull of biofuel (suspended food item) scurried across the Union Ballroom.  Once robots reached their destination the launching of punkins took place.  Rather than the exploding punkins you might find at worlds, the UofU punkins were of the less toxic stuffed variety.

Fun was had by all as the Union Ballroom was filled with students, faculty and family to witness this grand tradition.  Infusing real world experiences into engineering education is what the Department of Mechanical Engineering is known for.

Andrew Merryweather, assistant professor of mechanical engineering noted, “Most students who enter ME1000 have no idea that at the end of the semester they will have the skills to analyze mechanical systems, draft models in Solid Works, calculate realistic results using Explicit Finite Difference Techniques using Excel, and design and build a competition robot.  The Punkin Chunkin competition was the culmination of effort students put in and ended with some successes and disappointments for each team.  It’s rewarding as an instructor to see students working together in a sense of team unity and scrambling last minute to get their robots ready to compete.  The excitement is contagious and will hopefully fuel these students along the challenging undergraduate road that lies ahead.”

Mechanical Engineering ME 1000 Punkin Chunkin competition winners Kaytlin Ellsworth and John (JP) Thomas making last minute adjustments to their robot before final heat. Not pictured are team members Katherine Hashimoto and Christopher Pickard. (Courtesy photo)

Spectators and participants alike were impressed with the successful driving distance achieved of 23.4 m, by one team and the 16 m throwing distance by another.

1st Place Team: The Gourd Hoard (#40)

Members: Kaytlin Ellsworth, Katherine Hashimoto, Christopher Pickard, and John (JP) Thomas

2nd Place Team: The 4 Team (#14)

Members: Chandler Blessing, Kyle Holt, Scott Newcom, and Benjamin Stern

“I really enjoyed working with my group.  Each of us had very different backgrounds, which helped us contribute to and improve each others ideas. Our team went through a lot of different designs before choosing the one we used in the competition. We found that a simple design focusing on moving our robot the farthest distance gave us the best result during testing. Iterating and improving after each test-run was my favorite part,” remarked Katherine Hashimoto, mechanical engineering first-year student and member of the winning team.

Classmate Jacob Hopkins noted, “I was very proud of how my team’s punkin’ chunkin’ robot performed.  We put in a ton of build-time throughout the semester that all came together in the end to earn us third place. The class and labs have been a great introduction to the engineering world for me and the punkin’ chunkin’ competition allowed me to apply what I learned. I couldn’t have been happier with how it went.”