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Miltary Engineering Challenge: Cold Wars 2007 Report 1

Lords of Siege

It all started with an innocuous conversation with Geoff Graff at FALL IN 06. Geoff was tired of schlepping events for Cold Wars, but wanted to contribute.. SOMETHING of note to the convention as a whole. He didn't (at the time) wish to be a con director, but wouldn't mind being named Assistant Con Director in charge of something... Just improvising, I said why not try heading up a theme event of some sort? "What sort of theme event" "Oh, I don't know, something goofy and not so serious... like a siege engine contest". "Brilliant! Let's do this..." and the conversation evolved into the highly technical as I could see Geoff had taken the bit and was pulling hard.

What emerged was inspired. I knew that I didn't have the time to chase this one home (or for much of anything else), so Geoff would have to take that ball and run with it. Being Geoff, he ran pretty hard. I did what *I* could, which wasn't much-- getting him a budget for awards and expenditures and such, but just about all of what evolved was pure Geoff.

The Cold Wars 2007 Military Engineering Challenge:

1) Assemble a team of 1-3 individuals.
2) Design a Projectile throwing device, out of parts we provide.
3) Assemble & fine tune a projectile throwing device, in one hour.
4) Compete against other teams for distance, accuracy and wackiness.

The Flyer Text:

Cold Wars 2007 Military Engineering Challenge

Measure yourself against the finest military engineers in our time (and location).

You’ve heard of this type competition from some of the finest engineering schools in the country, and maybe even viewed a version on TV. Now YOU can join in the fun.

Assemble a team of 1 to 3 participants, and assemble a projectile throwing devise from the box of useful and not-so-useful parts provided. Then fire your devise, competing against other teams for distance and accuracy. And all in indoor comfort!

Yes, you too can test your engineering skills against other gamers, by building a devise to propel a ‘stone’ for distance and accuracy. We provide all the parts and tools, you provide the labor and genius.

Each team will have 2 hours to plan, assemble, test and fire their catapult, or onager, or ballista, or mangonel or trebuchet or whatever projectile throwing engine you can devise. The choice of design is up to you!

And there are prizes! Plaques for first, second and third place both for distance and for accuracy, and a special award for Extra-Ordinary Engineering.

There will be space and parts for twelve competing teams, four each at 10 AM, 2 PM and 6 PM on Saturday.

Don’t be shy, form your team or compete as an individual (Hey, why share the glory, or the prize?). Remember, this is being done in the spirit of fellowship and fun. Sign up in the convention registration room.

Sound easy? Well, I for one, can tell you it wasn't! I entered in the two pm slot on Saturday. I had in mind a long, graceful trebuchet style flinger... something like THIS. What I ended up making would have made Vauban wince. We ended up using every available second of the time alloted, and had to fine tune the trigger and basket on the firing line. Meanwhile, the family entry (from the Woman's Army Museum) was thoroughly kicking our butts in solidity of design and speey execution.

The boxes were full of stuff-- some standard wood lengths that everyone had, some standard bits and fasteners and screws and rubber bands and piping and such. Plus some non-standard items unique to each box.

I didn't take a picture of it, but I should mention one of Geoff's special rules about tool use. He brought a static set of tools-- drills, hammers, rulers, pliers. Teams were given chips that turn in for tools. If you want another tool, you have to provide the chip for it, or return a tool to get a chip back.

The other entries in the event were all very solid. The Engineering Buccaneers made a short treb with rubber band assist, and they recommended that I add elastics to the rocker bar of my design (The Lady Go Diver) to increase the whipping action of the bar. The Tower of the Sun was the catapault to beat, with a distance record of 20+ feet. Alas, the Lady only managed 9.8 feet. Fortuitously, she was a good performer in other respects, and did give us the best accuracy score of the day.

I ended up awarding the director's plaque to the Family Entry, as it showed rapid improvisation and creativity. Their enthusiasm was a joy to behold! Seriously!

In summary, I'm very glad we have guys like Geoff Graff around to honcho ideas like this. EVEN WITH A SNOWSTORM RESTRICTING ATTENDANCE, we had 8 entries. I loved it! I think the Military Engineering Challenge is an event that could stand some repeating in future cons. Geoff has already been approached to think something up for COLD WARS 08. Fantastic. Geoff, if your'e reading this, Thanks so much for your energy, creativity and hard work. You really added value to Cold Wars 2007.

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