Ever heard of a "trebuchet?"
If not, you may want to Google it -- because apparently the company, at least Google's data center in Moncks Corner, knows a few things about what many of us think of as a medieval catapult.
On Saturday, Google teamed with The Citadel for a fun-filled afternoon featuring a trebuchet competition between 19 teams -- 13 of which were from area high schools -- on Summerall Field.
The "Storm The Citadel Trebuchet Competition" was part of the school's National Engineering Week activities, which also included a Lego robot and stick bridge competitions for middle and high school students inside Mark Clark Hall.
Last fall, Google approached The Citadel about the trebuchet competition as part of its community outreach.
"Google makes it a point of being engaged in the community and we do it in ways to encourage an interest in math and science," said Matt Dunne, head of community affairs for Google. "As we explored ways of doing that, when we talked to the guys at the data center, what they got excited about was a catapult competition."
Eric Wages, Google's operations manager at Moncks Corner, said the competition appealed to staff members because it was a real life example of how changing variables can result in different results. And frankly, it was fun.
"What you want to do is make sure that kids understand that this kind of science is cool," said Wages.
The Citadel, which also had four teams build trebuchets, seemed to be a fitting place to hold the contest because of the military nature of the contraption.
"What's great about it is that they (high school students) are not only learning the engineering but also the history (of the technology)," said Jeff Perez, president of external affairs for The Citadel. "What they are trying to figure out now is what people, a thousand years ago, were trying to figure out when storming a castle. They are living history."
Perez added that the competition also was an exercise in solving problems as a team, which is necessary in today's world of technology.
"That's exactly what you'd see if you go to SPAWAR or to Google where people work together as a team because everyone brings something to table," Perez said. "Together, they figure out what ideas go together to solve a problem -- in this case to make an orange go into a bucket 50 yards away with a trebuchet."
The day started with a team from Google catapulting various items -- bags of flour, watermelons, and squash -- from a large trebuchet in the late morning as other teams showed up and started practicing. The competition, which involved shooting oranges at a model of The Citadel, started at 1 p.m. Oranges had to land inside fort walls for points.
In the end, The Citadel Cadet Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers walked away with the grand prize -- the Spartan helmet trophy -- in the finals of the event. Porter Gaud High School, the overall high school division winner, came in second in the finals.
Besides the math, the history and the teamwork, many of the high school and adult teams brought tons of team spirit to the event with many dressing the part.
For example, West Ashley High School's dual-credit pre-calculus class came as F.A.T. (Floating Arm Trebuchet) Nerdz, donning their nerdiest attire in their impressive showing: second-place finishes for high schools in trebuchet accuracy, design and team spirit.
F.A.T. Nerdz even had a fight song: "Secant, tangent, cosine, sine, 3.14159, i, pi, cube root 3, fight, fight, fight for West Ashley!"
Also embracing their inner nerd, The Citadel's chapter of the National Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, or IEEE, fielded a team of nerd-dressed trebuchet competitors.
Mark McKinney, associate professor of electrical engineering, wore taped up, horn-rimmed glasses, hiked up shorts and a short tie, proclaiming himself as a "certified geek" and that "you can spell geek without an 'ee.'"
Here are the rest of the results from Saturday's "Storm The Citadel Trebuchet Competition."High School Division -- Accuracy--1st: Porter Gaud School--2nd: West Ashley High School--3rd: James Island Charter High SchoolHigh School Division-- Design--1st: Wando High School--2nd: West Ashley High School--3rd: Charleston Charter School for Math & ScienceHigh School Division -- Spirit--1st: Stratford High School--2nd: West Ashley High School--3rd: Porter GaudOVERALL HIGH SCHOOL WINNER: Porter Gaud SchoolCorporate/Organizations Division -- Accuracy--1st: Citadel Cadet Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers--2nd: Navy Battalion ROTC Detachment - The Citadel--3rd: (TIE) Google and The Citadel Chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics EngineersCorporate/Organizations Division -- Design--1st: The Citadel Chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)--2nd: Citadel Cadet Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers--3rd: SAIC: Science Applications International Corporation's Command, Control, Communications, Computer and Information Technology (C4IT) Business Unit.Corporate/Organizations Division -- Spirit--1st: Google--2nd: SAIC: Science Applications International Corporation's Command, Control, Communications, Computer and Information Technology (C4IT) Business Unit--3rd: The Citadel Chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers)OVERALL CORPORATE/ORGANIZATION WINNER: Citadel Cadet Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers