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Plattsburgh State students take home gold for chuckin’ pumpkins

Randi Bassik, left, and Tobey Betthauser, were among members of the State University of New York at Plattsburgh Physics Club who came together last weekend at the annual Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin’ Festival in Cambridge, Vt. The SUNY Plattsburgh team took home first place in the competition.

Randi Bassik, left, and Tobey Betthauser, were among members of the State University of New York at Plattsburgh Physics Club who came together last weekend at the annual Vermont Pumpkin Chuckin’ Festival in Cambridge, Vt. The SUNY Plattsburgh team took home first place in the competition.

— “The weights are dropped straight down to harness the natural force of gravity,” explained Podolak. “As the weights fall, a mechanism turns and the pumpkin flies forward ... We noticed those who had a vertical drop harnessed more gravitational force.”

The change in design paid off, but it wasn’t an overnight improvement.

“We did a lot of trial and error,” said Podolak, who added the team chronicled its progress with videos and photos.

Though this year the vertical drop was a recipe for success, Podolak said he and his team area already setting their sights on what next year’s design will entail.

“I think we can get even more distance,” he said. “We’ve already noticed where we can make improvements.”

Regardless of how they place, Podolak said he’s excited students have a chance to learn in an environment that takes them outside the classroom.

“This gives them a chance to go beyond sitting in a class every day and reading books ... this teaches them the practicality of things and really encourages their love of physics,” he said.

“It encourages discussions and, with something like this that helps charities, it teaches the importance of community involvement,” he added, noting the festival benefits the Lamoille Family Center in Morrisville, Vt., and the Cambridge Rotary.

The SUNY Plattsburgh team’s project was made possible by funding from the university’s student association. Last year’s project was funded through the university’s physics department.

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