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Valencia High students build trebuchet 'for the heck of it'

Posted: January 19, 2013 5:26 p.m.
Updated: January 19, 2013 5:26 p.m.

Trebuchet builder Andrew Samson, 17, left, looks on as co-builder Christian Brannon, 18, pulls the release of their trebuchet during test launches with water balloons and tennis balls at Northbridge Park in Valencia on Saturday.

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Andrew Samson and Christian Brannon, childhood friends who live on the same street in Valencia, spent countless hours over the past several weeks building a trebuchet in Brannon’s backyard.

And they had a very good reason for doing so.

“We decided to build it just for the heck of it,” Samson explained.

Both Brannon and Samson are seniors at Valencia High School and hope to study engineering in college.

Samson designed the device using a computer program over winter break and the two set out soon thereafter to turn the blueprint into a reality.

But first the pair had to convince Brannon’s parents to let them temporarily turn the backyard into a construction zone.

“My dad was a little abrasive at first,” Brannon said. “He didn’t really like the idea of having a trebuchet this close to the house.”

Those fears were almost justified as the device malfunctioned several times during construction. The metal pipe that secures the trebuchet’s throwing arm proved especially troublesome, as several iron pipes were bent or warped during testing.

These mishaps gave the device its name, “Iron Breaker.”

But the pipe was just one of the difficulties the duo ran into. Working on a tight budget, the two could not afford top-of-the-line wood, meaning there were natural imperfections and flaws in the building materials.

Brannon said the lack of adequate tools proved to be difficult as well.

But at the end of the day, the two were able to cobble together a 10-foot-tall device that had the potential to launch “everything from water balloons to watermelons” more than 100 yards, Samson said.

“Iron Breaker” is the second trebuchet the pair has built. Last year they constructed a smaller, 4-foot-tall model that they launched at the nearby Northbridge Park.

The two provided an encore on a grander scale at the park early Saturday afternoon, but after three launches, “Iron Breaker” broke.

Samson said Saturday that he plans to rebuild the trebuchet and try another launch in the future.

Brannon and Samson also said they hope to bring their trebuchet to school to demonstrate the real-world applications of classroom lessons.

After all, “Iron Breaker” can be disassembled and moved with little difficulty.

“We have plenty of practice at that at this point,” Brannon said.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney


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