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Civil Engineers Aim High with Final Projects

Date: Dec. 1, 2000
By: Chris Curran
Phone: (513) 556-1806
Photo by: Lisa Ventre
Archive: General News

image of trebuchet

Final exams aren't supposed to be fun, but two groups of first-year civil engineers definitely got a charge out of their finals today.

The students are part of Professor Richard Miller's Introduction to Engineering class. The future civil engineers learn a lot of basic engineering techniques and how to apply the science of physics to engineering tasks.

But Miller felt the most important lesson was to experience engineering in action. So, he had his students watch a NOVA program on Ancient Engineering which featured the construction of a full-scale trebuchet -- an ancient catapault-like device which was known as the "War Wolf" in the days of King Edward I who used one to conquer Scotland in the 16th century.

image of trebuchet

Then, Miller challenged his students. He assigned them to work in teams to design and build their own trebuchets.

There were some restrictions, however. The machines had to be made of wood, just like the originals. The students could use metal screws (too hard to find wooden pegs these days), but no plastic wheels or any other modern materials. The trebuchets had to stand no more than two feet tall, but had to be capable of flinging a golf ball at least 20 yards down a straight line. Just like in a shot put contest or javelin throw, a penalty was deducted for shots that went astray.

The designs were tested today at Nippert Stadium with the best efforts sailing more than 50 yards. Not all projects worked perfectly the first time around, however.

Watch what happened in this MPEG movie. (He said "Shoot!" Really, he did!)

Professor Miller explains how this relates to modern engineering in this movie.

The trebuchet contest was also featured on Channel 9 (WCPO-TV).

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