Conestoga news

April 14, 2005 11:55 AM

Conestoga Students Catapult to Success

Catapults call to mind images of Roman Legions or the siege of medieval castles, but in 2005, catapults can be useful, practical learning tools, too.

A team of four Conestoga woodworking students went to Ottawa to take part in the second annual wood catapult competition sponsored by the Canadian Wood Council and came home with the second-place prize: $1,000 for the students plus three sets of reference texts published by the Council for use by Conestoga's woodworking programs.

Members of the Conestoga foursome were Woodworking Technician students Bruce Durward of Lindsay and Craig Laaksonen of Whitefish (near Sudbury) and Woodworking Technology students Pat McIntosh of Waterloo and Greg Saunders of Whitby.

Conestoga's second-place finish put the team ahead of squads from university programs at McGill, Western Ontario, Laval, Manitoba, and a number of teams from Ottawa, as well as college programs at St. Lawrence, Red River and Cambrian. Tied for top honours were a team from the University of Ottawa and one from Confederation College.

According to woodworking professor Mark Bramer, who was faculty adviser to the team, the students put in more than 200 hours of their own time on the project. The one-day catapult competition took place during Ottawa's annual Winterlude festival, and the event attracted a crowd of several thousand spectators.

The Canadian Wood Council, which has a keen interest in promoting wood manufacturing education and careers, sponsors the competition "to encourage creativity, give students the opportunity to apply engineering principles and have them think beyond the box," Bramer says.

The catapult competition is open to teams from any Canadian college or university. The objective is simple: to design a lightweight catapult capable of accurately hitting a target at least 20 metres away, using a ball weighing nearly a kilogram.

The specifications, however, are complex. The prototype cannot weigh more than 70 kilograms, must be light enough to be carried by hand to and from the contest site, and capable of being easily assembled and disassembled on-site. In addition, all structural and propulsion materials must be made of wood -- no wood-plastic composites, concrete or steel allowed, except for items such as screws and bolts, connector plates and hinges.

Judging was based on the placement of three targets at distances of 20, 30 and 40 metres from the catapult, with the students to achieve as many direct or close hits as possible within a 30-minute period. Conestoga's score was equal to that of the co-winners, with the only difference being the amount of time required to achieve to score.

Bramer indicates that Conestoga intends to be back for the 2006 event.

"It was a wonderful learning experience all the way through, for everyone involved. The fact that we successfully competed with outstanding student teams from major universities has made us extremely proud of the efforts of our students and, we hope, made Conestoga a name to be reckoned with in the future."

CONTACT: Mark Bramer, 519-748-5220, ext. 3468,