Students and their instructor from the Northeast Tech Afton Campus visited the State Capitol to receive special recognition for their world records.
AFTON – In late March a group of students and their instructor from the Northeast Tech Afton Campus visited the State Capitol to receive special recognition on the Floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Led by instructor Corey Winesburg, the welders were honored for earning a world record in a rather unique feat of engineering.
The road to a world record began in 2010 when Winesburg and a group of student began the process of designing and building a trebuchet to compete in the World Championship Punkin’ Chunkin’ competition.
“This began a class project intended to prepare my welding students for the many different skills and environments found in the welding industry,” Winesburg said. “We started with a working prototype of the machine that is made of steel and capable of throwing grapefruits over a 1/4 mile.”
Dubbed “Colossal Junior,” over the course of the next year this small-scale trebuchet slowly morphed into the massive machinery the students named, “Colossal Thunder.” Standing 27 feet tall, Colossal Thunder uses 5,000 pounds of counterweight to throw projectiles more than 3,000 feet in distance. Winesburg and a crew of students took their machine to its first World Championship Punkin’ Chunkin’ competition in 2012 where they won the Youth Trebuchet Division World Championship with a world record throw of 2,402 feet. They would win the Adult Division three years later.
Eight years and two world records under their belt and Winesburg’s students are still making improvements to their trebuchet which has gained global recognition.
“Our best throw was 3,278 feet, and to date, no other trebuchet in the world has been able to match that,” said Winesburg. “We’re just a bunch of welders from little towns in Northeast Oklahoma, but we’re getting to show the world just what you can accomplish with CareerTech training.”
But how did Winesburg and his students end up at the Capitol this year? That can also be attributed to CareerTech training.
Representative Ben Loring was attending welding classes offered through the Adult Education Program on the Afton Campus. He noticed Colossal Thunder sitting outside the shop and soon learned of the group’s accomplishments. He invited them to the Capitol in order to honor their work with a citation presented on the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
“For those of you who may not be familiar with that term – trebuchet – that’s a fancy French term that means, something that throws pumpkins a real far distance,” Loring said jokingly from the podium of the House floor. He went on to describe the process by which the trebuchet was built, the records it has earned and the value of CareerTech training.
“To be recognized in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, it was a pretty neat experience for me and the guys,” said Winesburg. “Representatives Loring, West and Hoskin were all so nice, and to have the chance to represent our school in this way was an honor.”
As for what the future holds for Colossal Thunder, Winesburg and his students are hoping to defend their title in future competitions, the next one of which takes place in Colorado. But locals interested in seeing the trebuchet in action won’t have to drive that far.
“For the last couple of years, we’ve brought Colossal Thunder out to the Route 66 Punkin’ Chunkin’ Festival that happens in October, and we’re hoping to be there again this year,” Winesburg said. “To really appreciate the size and power of the machine, you have to see it in person. When you do, I promise you won’t forget it.”