Thousands attend fifth annual ‘Storm The Citadel’ trebuchet competition in name of STEM education

A team of Boeing employees prepare to launch a medicine ball toward a target 300-feet away using an medievel-styled trebuchet they constructed for the fifth annual "Storm The Citadel" competition. (Christina Elmore/Staff)

A record number of teams participated Saturday in the fifth annual “Storm The Citadel” competition, launching medicine balls, melons and lettuce from medieval-style trebuchets as a means of promoting STEM education.

The event, which falls within National Engineers Week, was attended by more than 3,000 people on the school’s Summerall Field. It was founded in 2011 by Google and The Citadel’s School of Engineering.

More than 80 teams comprised mostly of students, elementary through college-aged, worked for months to construct the trebuchets. Robotics and bridge-building teams also competed in the day’s other activities.

The event aims to reinforce the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math, said Jeff Stevenson, a Google employee and one of the competition’s organizers.

“The whole idea is to take math and science off of the page and give students something they can build with their hands,” he said.

The trebuchets, the most popular of the day’s competitions, are judged in multiple categories including design, accuracy and spirit. A crowd cheered from the sidelines as watermelons and other items soared some 300-feet through the air before splattering near a target on the ground.

A 14-member team of Boeing employees squared off against Google in the competitions “Barbarian” category for professionals. Google for four years held first place in that competition, but was toppled Saturday by the Boeing team.

Paul Werntges, a Boeing employee, said his team worked up to 20 hours a week since October to build their 15-foot, steel trebuchet.

“We’re all pretty happy,” he said after high-fiving teammates in celebration of their win.

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