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Ogallala Hosts Thrills in the Hills Competition



Students from the Ogallala High School physics and welding classes recently competed at the 6th Annual Thrills in the Hills Catapult Competition.  The competition in the past has been hosted by Arthur High School in Arthur, Nebraska.  However, this year Ogallala High School hosted the event at the Ogallala Fairgrounds.


Many science teachers typically have small-scale catapult competitions within their classrooms each year as a fun way to help our students grasp an understanding of projectile motion. In the past few years, about ten schools from around the state have competed in annual Thrills in the Hills competition. The competition has piqued the interest of all the students who competed in the event and gave them some real world engineering experience.


Machine designs for the competition could have been of catapult, trebuchet, torsion, tension, or ballista origins.  Air cannon designs or centrifugal designs were not allowed for safety reasons. All participants threw 16 pound bowling balls in the competition as a projectile.


Catapults entered into the competition could not be larger than 25 feet long, 15 feet wide, and 15 feet tall (excluding the lever arm).   Axtell, Gothenburg, Ogallala, North Platte, and Maxwell all attended the competition.


The competition was based on how close the launcher could throw a bowling ball to a designated distance, chosen the day of the competition, between 100 and 150 feet in front of the device. Each team was given three trial shots and three competition shots, and distances were measured from the point of impact to the designated distance using a laser rangefinder.  The distance chosen the day of the competition by a random number generator was 130 ft.


North Platte won the competition with their traditional trebuchet with a throw that landed 2 feet 2 inches away from the goal.  Axtell’s floating arm trebuchet earned second with a throw that landed 7 feet 8 inches away from the goal, and Gothenburg’s floating arm trebuchet earned 3rd with a throw that landed 14 feet 10 inches away from the goal.


Ogallala students designed and built a torsion ballista.  However, in the days before the competition during testing it was clear that the design was not going to work.  They did however attempt to put together a quick catapult with their remaining supplies the day of that did throw the ball a short distance.  Their best throw was 110 feet  5 inches away from the goal distance.


Ogallala High School students that participated in the project included Bryce Borer, Dylan Higgins, Tim Eveland, Jack Lindgren, Scott Hauk, Adam Wach, Jon Hood, and Justin Candy. 



Jennifer Jones, science teacher, says “Students really got into the competition last year, and it was really neat to see how the students were able to apply physics concepts to such a large project.  So it was a no-brainer to me that this year’s class would probably enjoy the project as well.  This year’s class went with a totally different design that was a little more technical than a traditional trebuchet.  Therefore, it took a lot of research, visualization, and engineering to get it to work.  I think everybody working on the project became frustrated at times as it tested the kid’s patience and dedication, as well as my own.  Even though the end product didn’t work, there were still a lot of lessons learned, as engineering is full of failures before things work.  It was also exciting to watch the kids gain the life skills that came with the construction…welding, safety considerations, travel planning, communication, etc.  Students in the physics class did a lot of the design work, and students in the Ogallala welding classes helped a lot with the construction of the device.  Communication was key to this project as the students had to relay a lot of technical information from designers to builders.”


“It is important to note that the Ogallala students really worked with the community when taking on this project.  Ace, Bomgaars, Kildare Lumber, R Tire and Alignment, and numerous other individuals all donated supplies to the kids to help complete the project.  It’s great that we have such a supportive community that will help our students with these sort of projects.  We couldn’t have done it without them.”


Welding teacher, Daniel Stokey, says “It was a fun project that allowed me to work with kids I usually don’t see.  Next year we are going for first place.”


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