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Students say beware of flying pumpkins during Homecoming

October 30, 2008

ASU History Peer Mentors have found an explosive way to show their school spirit while bringing history to life.

The undergraduate student group in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will build a replica of a mangonel, a catapult based on Roman designs that was used in Europe during the Middle Ages. Student will use the mangonel to launch pumpkins at a model of Butch the Cougar –ASU’s Homecoming opponent from Washington State University.

The world of medieval siege weapons is not new to the History Peer Mentors. At last year’s Homecoming, the group built a replica of a trebuchet, another siege weapon from the Middle Ages.

History Peer Mentors is a program where history major upperclassmen are matched with incoming history freshmen and sophomores to create a sense of community. They offer help with everything from how to use the library and writing in Chicago Manual Style to finding friends in college, says Paul Bergelin, a senior and project manager for the mangonel.

“We want to show that it’s OK to be passionate about history,” Bergelin says. “It’s OK to be a dork. But we also want them to know there’s a social side to being a history major.”

The catapult is powered by torsion, says Bergelin. Torsion involves the twisting of a large bundle of rope to build up energy that is released when the catapult is fired. This energy can be so overwhelming that it can cause the entire catapult to “buck” its back-end. Because of this, another name for this catapult is onager, named after a type of wild donkey that is infamous for being untamable.

Robin Valencia, president of History Peer Mentors, says the mangonel should be less complicated than their trebuchet from last year. She says they’re hoping to have everything built in two weeks time, once they find a build site.

Despite wanting to demonstrate a fascinating remnant from early history, the group doesn’t plan on being totally true to life. “We get all our materials from Home Depot,” Valencia said. “We also use power tools, because we do want to finish on time.”

Valencia said that while pumpkins are not exactly historically accurate ammo for the mangonel, she says they use them because “it’s more explosive, and people like explosions.”

Another event the group holds later in year is the “Historically Inaccurate Movie Night,” where the students choose a film to screen, while faculty and students judge its historical accuracy. In 2007, the films “300” and “History of the World: Part I” were shown.

The mangonel will be fired during the Homecoming celebration from 1-3 p.m. Nov. 14 at the Student Recreation Complex (SRC) East Field on ASU’s Tempe campus. The event is free and open to the public. More information at 480-965-8364.

Ashley Lange,
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences