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Students Compete in SCC's "Tater Toss"

Apr 14, 2015

No one was "tossing taters" around SCC's Loren Walker Gymnasium. But there were students from across southeast Iowa enjoying the college's first Tater Toss.

The event required participants to build a catapult from scratch that could fit in a box measuring 16" x 16" x 16".  The rest was up to students' imaginations, which was just fine for the team from Keokuk High School.

The Bionikats from Keokuk High School won for most innovate design. The team also won the distance competition.
Credit www.flickr.com / Southeastern Community College

Junior Tyler Claiborne said after a brainstorming phase, the Bionikats, as the team calleditself, decided to build a standard catapult.

"Then we had to figure out how the heck we were going to do this," Claiborne said.  "We 3-D printed all sorts of parts.  There were, like, some parts that didn't work [so] we had a collection of five different things that we printed. That took an hour a piece, and they didn't work. So we eventually did what we needed to do to get it done."

The final product was a combination of metal, composite materials and 40 heavy-duty rubber bands.  Keokuk's catapult was one of only two to not be made of wood, which contributed to it winning the most innovative award.

The Queen Bees from New London High School won one of the accuracy competitions at SCC's tater toss
Credit www.flickr.com / Southeastern Community College

The Tater Toss featured several competitions for accuracy and distance.  A team from New London High School won the 15' target challenge while students from WACO Junior High were victorious in the 30' target challenge.

When it came to distance, though, Keokuk High School secured another victory.  Claiborne pointed to a flattened clay ball on the other side of the gym, some 40 feet up the wall.

"We actually shot the first one [and] it hit the wall and stuck there," Claiborne said.  "Then we shot the second one, 2" apart, it hit that and knocked the other one off.  The third one ended up in the rafters somewhere."

The entries
Credit www.flickr.com / Southeastern Community College

Claiborne said during practice runs, the Bionikats' catapult was launching the clay balls more than 160'.  Teams from Central Lee High School and Wapello High School rounded out the top three.

The final prize for most decorative went to a team from Keokuk Christian Academy.

The event was an opportunity to get students thinking about careers in STEM-related fields (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics).  Jeff Ebbing, SCC Spokesperson, said the goal was to get participants to do some innovative thinking and work through their ideas.

"Sometimes it might be a theory or on paper or out of a book, it’s not as applied.  They can see how what they're doing works,” he said. 

A team from WACO Junior High prepares to launch.
Credit www.flickr.com / Southeastern Community College

Ebbing said a few schools that were scheduled to participate had to back out, so he hopes the next Tater Toss will be even larger.  He said the college has also reached out to other departments to see if they have an idea for another type of competition that incorporates STEM education.

Participating Schools

  • Central Lee High School - 2 teams
  • Keokuk Christian Academy - 2 teams
  • Keokuk High School
  • New London High School - 2 teams
  • WACO Junior High School - 2 teams
  • Wapello High School