There is more than one way to fling a pingpong ball.

Area students tried and discovered various flinging methods Thursday at Muskogee Area Education Consortium’s annual Math and Engineering Competition.

The competition drew students from 34 area schools to the Muskogee Civic Center. They competed in launching a pingpong ball with a device operated by a rubber band and in using a mouse trap to operate a vehicle. They also competed in math tests.

During the pingpong ball competition, students tried spoon catapults, PVC pipe cannons and other devices to fling balls into buckets.

Fort Gibson High School freshmen Hunter Bartlebaugh and Dhira Thompson had the most effective contraption, with which they scored 440 points. They mounted a curved piece of cardboard onto a board and rigged a wood trigger with a tightly wound rubber band.

Bartlebaugh said he tried the device several times until he could hit buckets 10 feet away.

He said winning “feels great.”

“It’s good to be recognized this way,” he said. “It makes our school more recognizable.”

Several students entered the competition confident they had the most effective launcher.

Braggs freshmen Joseph McCracken and Carter Miller made their device with flat rulers and PVC pipe.

Shooting the ball through the pipe would make it more accurate, McCracken said.

“If you made it like a crossbow, there’s the possibility it could shoot to the left or right,” he said.

Hilldale sophomore Rachell Watson managed to score 60 points with her plastic spoon catapult. She said she found the spoon in her backpack and her teacher had a bunch of Popsicle sticks.

Muskogee High School sophomore Joseph Vieira shot from metal strips poked with rows and columns of holes. He used the holes to gauge distance.

“If you pull the rubber band back to there, the ball goes exactly 10 feet,” Vieira said, pointing to the fifth hole from the end.

Some students got help from the manufacturers and colleges that had booths at the competition.

Darrell Dotson of Acme Manufacturing told Creek Elementary sixth-graders that consistency is a key to a successful launch.

“It’s nice to be able to see their good design and try to make it better,” Dotson said. “These kids have so many interesting designs.”

Muskogee Area Education Consortium Chairman Tony Pivec said the competition “does a ton of good.”

“It’s a forum for our best and brightest to compete academically,” he said.

Gore High School math teacher LaDonna Ferrier said the competition helps students develop science and math skills.

For example, students must calculate force, velocity, and distance to make an effective mousetrap car, she said.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or

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