The construction of the Polaris pumpkin launcher, known as the Polaris Pumpkin Eater, was originally intended to be a small project that would allow a few students to demonstrate the skills they had acquired in their program areas.

The project quickly expanded to include students from the majority of the program areas at Polaris Career Center, in Middleburg Heights, Ohio, as well as many members of the community and local industry.

The concept for this project originated when Tom Angelici, Polaris’ hvac instructor, was asked to help develop a catapult to launch pumpkins. This catapult was built for a contest sponsored by local radio station WGAR. Angelici then began to develop his own ideas, and he brought them back to Polaris with him.

Angelici spoke to the building maintenance instructor, Herb Baker, about involving students from Polaris in the 1998 contest. They developed a plan to present to the administration of Polaris. The project was presented as an opportunity to allow students to use their skills as a team, working together toward a common goal. The administration approved and granted permission for student involvement.

While the concept of a pumpkin launcher may seem simple, students put their problem-solving as well as design skills to work. The launcher could not have any explosive or combustible properties and had to be capable of propelling a seven-pound pumpkin.

The result of the project was a pneumatic launcher with a 20-ft barrel that propels pumpkins with high-pressure, low-volume compressed air. Built by Polaris students, the launcher used supplies donated by many local businesses and industries.

Students from the following programs participated in the construction of the Polaris Pumpkin Eater: Animal Production and Care; Auto Service Technology; Building Maintenance; Chef Training; Computer Aided Drafting; Construction Trades; Electronics; Food Service; Graphic Design; Graphic Printing; Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning; Medical Assisting; Precision Machining Trades; and Welding.

Additionally, the academic areas of math, science, and English participated in various phases of this project. In many instances, students cross-trained to learn new skills, such as students who were not prolific in welding learning basic welding skills.

The students took their launcher to WGAR’s pumpkin-launching competition in the fall of 1998 and took first place by launching their pumpkin the longest distance. The top distance of the launcher has been a little over 2,000 ft.

Along with the pride the students developed in knowing they won, the students learned a variety of problem-solving techniques, and they had the opportunity to develop a sense of school spirit by working with people from programs other than their own.

Additionally, the students of Polaris Career Center were recognized on the national Paul Harvey radio show and locally on the newscasts of the four Cleveland-area TV stations and in several newspapers.

Plans for the Polaris Pumpkin Eater include the construction of a bigger and more powerful launcher. The students intend to compete locally again this year. Ultimately, the students would like to take their pumpkin launcher to the national competition held each year in Delaware.