Offbeat

High Tech Gadgets Blend With Medieval Know-How

A Trebuchet was a brutal, medieval weapon used to collapse ramparts by hurling rocks, fireballs, and even dead people and animals over the walls of castles. It worked on the same principle as the simple slingshot and was just as deadly.

The trebuchet was a formidable adversary during the years of the Crusades. When he wasn’t exchanging his kingdom for a horse, Richard The Lionhearted referred to his best tour de force as Malvoisine. It is said that King Edward I, as well, aided by a giant trebuchet named WarWolf, forced the bloody surrender of Scotland’s Sterling Castle in 1304.

The trebuchet seeped into popular culture when the move Monty Python and the Holy Grail featured a cow being hurled over a caste wall.

A decade ago in Great Britain, a man named Hew Kennedy, built a massive trebuchet on his estate and used it to hurl compact cars and flaming pianos across his field. (Perhaps he needed another day job.)

In Charleston, South Carolina, during the first Storm the Citadel Trebuchet Competition, workers at a Google data center have combined 12th century ingenuity and space age technology to trigger the wooden weapon by using an Android cell phone, a computer the size of a credit card and a Blue Tooth receiver.

Sponsored by Google during The Citadel’s National Engineering Week, the purpose of the competition was to support Science, Technology, Engineering and various Mathematics programs (STEM) in the schools. Students from different South Carolina high school competed alongside engineering majors and corporate teams.

In the words of Jeff Stevenson, a manager at the Google Data Center in Berkeley County, South Carolina: “There’s a lot of engineering and math principles involved. And it’s just fun.”

History teaches us many things including which weapons work when it’s time to use one.

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