Monday, November 2, 2009

What I learned running my first Pumpkin Chunkin' contest.

This past Saturday, Greater Rochester Robotics FIRST Team 340 ran a Pumpkin Chunkin' contest. Well, my boys and I ran it for the team. We held it at Stokoe Farms, a local pumpkin and Christmas tree farm. I had fun, and it seems as if all there had a good time.

The biggest issue was the weather, rain and wind with dropping temperatures, but what can be done with that? Mud and wet. Stuck cars, cold people. Don't people own raincoats anymore? I usually have some sort of luck with weather. Usually bad luck. Expect bad weather in this region on October 30 next year.

The area Stokoe Farms gave us was great. A field over 1000' in length. Easy access to the area for drop off. A tractor train to get people back to the parking lot. Pumpkins were one field over. They have a snack area so they could sell lunches and the like, so we did not have to deal with that. Porta-potties we there. The only issue was the lack of electrical. They let us borrow a small generator, so we were able to get our PA system to work. Some teams needed power for fixing their catapults, so it would have been nice, but battery tools are good.

We only had four teams to sign up. I would have liked more, and am wondering about how to increase the attendance next year. We started a bit late, about two months before hand. We need to get the info out to as many outlets as possible, and to the local colleges, school districts, scout troops and so on. The message really did not get out. But we did get a guy from Vermont. We were really too late to get on Stokoe's calendar, and I depended on others to get the word out. As soon as I get next years date approved by GRR and Stokoe's we will start getting the information out.

We were able to borrow the PA system from the Scottsville Athletic Association, it worked well. There were some issues on our end with the PA. Getting the generator to us was difficult, and getting a small enough generator so it would not drown out the PA was another problem. Stokoe's gave us one of theirs, but it came a little late. Another issue was my iPod, which was loaded with a play list for this event, several Halloween and other appropriate songs. The iPod crashed. Nothing. Dead. I did have my iPod touch as a music backup, but I do not have many songs on it. A student had an iPod which we used. The announcers needed to have some things scripted. Had an announcer, but he got bored and gave it over to another person. Need to have the script and discuss appropriate and inappropriate commentary with them.

We need to triple check that the radios were on the same frequency. Apparently one was off by a channel. We could hear him now and then, but most the time we could not. Added frustration.

I hope that this was a learning experience for all the students involved. Most of the catapults worked well until they added more weight. Adding more weight caused their machines to fail due to the added stress. Engineering and testing. Hopefully they will build their catapults and test well ahead of time. some were finished the night before, and modified on the field.

One of the teams took forever to build and get going. Well past the time limit. The other teams were finished and tearing down, before the team got a second throw set up. This cannot be allowed next year. We either need to start a little later, or allow set-up the day before. I would hate to DQ people, but will have to next year.

All in all, despite the weather and small turnout we had a good time. I hope next year will be even better. I may build one to enter, starting in the spring.

Here are some photos, I did not really have time to take many. But video and photos were taken by others

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