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Medieval weapon comes to life in contemporary times

This trebuchet was constructed by Patrick Kinney to entertain visitors to the Pumpkin Patch at Badlands Sno-Park. It hurls pumpkins to the thrill of visitors. Submitted photo

The trebuchet is known to have been used in China as early as 300 B.C. Most people might associate it more with medieval times when it was the military weapon of choice for invading forces. What is unique about this type of catapult is that it has a sling in which the ammunition is placed.

For Hudson resident Patrick Kinney, building his own trebuchet has been a goal since he was 12 years old. Fascinated by the ancient device which was last used for military purposes in the 1500s due to the invention of gunpowder, he designed, built and tested his own version.

While the medieval weapons were largely constructed of wood, the modern versions, including Kinney's, gives power a whole new meaning as it is constructed of steel, concrete and objects from his farm shop.

Located at Badlands Sno-Park as part of Fall Family Fun events, the trebuchet stands atop the turbo-tube slope, the highest point on the Badlands property. The frame is about 15 feet tall, the throwing arm is 25 feet long and the sling is 15 feet long. At full extension before the pumpkin releases, it is already over 40 feet in the air.

Kinney built his trebuchet with I-beams. After studying various other trebuchet plans and watching multiple videos, he determined this was the most stable material. The 2,200 pound counterweight is made of 40 bags of Quikcrete cement product.

It will launch a 20-pound pumpkin 500-700 feet in distance with a vertical zenith of about 300 feet. The pumpkins, which land with an amazing display of flying seeds and parts, are a treat for the cows that pasture at the bottom of the sno-tubing slope.

The mechanics of it, according to a Google search are: "Pulling the pin out of the trigger allows the counterweight to fall. The long end of the throwing arm swings up rapidly, pulling the sling forward. The sling, with the pumpkin in its pouch, swings around the end of the throwing arm picking up speed. When the throwing arm rotates past vertical, one end of the sling releases from the slot in the end of the arm. This releases the pumpkin from the pouch allowing it to fly forward."

The physics of this ancient device are complicated involving gravitational potential energy, angular momentum, velocity ratio and kinetic energy.

The simple explanation is that when the counter-weight falls, its gravitational potential energy is changed to kinetic energy in the moving projectile.

Badlands is located at 772 Kinney Road.