Students compete in 'Cantalobber' event at Kutztown University

Competition rewards physics students for building the perfect projectile

Lobbing cantaloupes at Kutztown

KUTZTOWN, Pa. - It sounds like a recipe for disaster: a bunch of college kids, a box of cantaloupes, and a giant slingshot. It's not a fraternity prank, though. It's Kutztown University's annual "Cantalobber" event -- a high-flying food fight with a serious mission.

"Oh, it's awesome," said Kutztown University student Katelyn Ciccozzi.

Started seven years ago, this event pits teams of physics students against each other to build the perfect projectile.

"We build devices to launch cantaloupes into the field," said Paul Quinn Sr., a physics professor at Kutztown.

There were Medieval-style catapults called trebuchets. A few went astray. One device nearly collapsed, and another sent a cantaloupe hurtling backwards into the crowd.

There were also three sets of air cannons competing for distance. Competitors coated the cantaloupes with cooking oil. One cannon actually exploded cantaloupe bits into the crowd.

"I didn't even know it exploded," said Kutztown student Jaclyn Witko. "Actually scared me."

This isn't just about flinging cantaloupes in the air -- not that you really need another reason to come out here. It's also about education. Many of the teams spend months working on their devices.

"You have to know about launch angles. You have to know about projectile motion," said Quinn. "You also have to know about safety."

Kutztown student Nate Benjamin added: "Physics is fun too and it's not just engineering or some other job sitting behind a desk."

The winning team wasn't from a college, but Kutztown High School. They fielded a catapult called "Stomach Virus," so named because it makes you "hurl."

"It's pretty nice [to beat the college kids]," said Kutztown High junior Philip Moyer. "It takes a lot of work though.

So next time Mom says, "Don't play with your food," just bring her to this competition.

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