December 8, 2022


Potatoes were launched all over the place at the Cambridge campus on Oct. 9 as part of mechanical engineering technology professor Henry Kastner’s fifth annual Potato Launch Competition for his problem-solving and design class.

Six teams competed, with the students being given approximately three and a half weeks to buy materials, design, test and build their potato-launching devices.

Kastner said in past years students were allowed to use air-powered cannons, but it got boring because the potatoes would go so far that they disappeared.

This year only mechanical devices were allowed.PotatoLaunch(2)

“… We get to see their creativity and then it’s always fun when something doesn’t work or something breaks,” Kastner said.

He said the key point of the whole exercise is the design process, where students go from having nothing to creating something that flings a potato.

Before the competition started there was a safety inspection.

John Anderson, an occupational safety officer, along with Kastner analyzed each potato launcher to verify they all had a lockout device, which ensured the launchers wouldn’t misfire at any point.

“We didn’t want any accidental firings when somebody was in the way or when they were loading it,” Kastner said.

The winning team for the competition portion was determined by how they presented themselves throughout the whole competition. The competition consisted of an accuracy round, a distance round, general safety and the team’s storyboard.

For the accuracy round the potato was supposed to hit a target which stood 75 feet away.

The winning team of the distance round was determined by where the biggest piece of the potato rolled to after being launched.

The challenge was worth 25 per cent of the student’s overall grade. The marking had two components – the competition worth 11.5 per cent and the report worth 13.5 per cent.

Team 2, known as Delta Launchers, consisting of Georgel Dumitrel, Marko Divjak, Petar Stojanovic and Nikola Rajic, won the competition portion with their sling-shot device, but the report winner has yet to be determined.

Runners-up was Team 5, known as Indiana version 2.0, consisting of Marc Ovsec, Dylan Wakutz and Graem Paterson.

When building a potato launcher, there’s something next year’s students should consider.

Brandon Koot, a second-year mechanical engineering technology – robotics and automation student, said don’t make the device too complicated and that group diversity and input is crucial.

“Every design that you create there’s always going to be some way that it will break no matter what,” he said.

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