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Steve Catania's scale model trebuchet siege engine
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Trebuchet Battalion (L-R) - Patrick Szczpinski, Jacob Hoerdeman, Steve Catania
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A ballistra, a Roman siege engine which improved upon the trebuchet
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WIU Trebuchet Trilogy; Medieval Siege Models and Food Toss May 4

May 2, 2006

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MACOMB, IL - - Cantaloupe, watermelon, sacks of fast food and water jugs will be launched during a lunchtime Thursday, May 4 demonstration of three medieval siege engine models by students at Western Illinois University. The noon food fly will be held at the track and field throwing area inside Hanson Field (closest to Q parking lot).

In support of Western’s First Year Experience (FYE) “Fast Food Nation” theme this year and to highlight undergraduate research, food will be fired from the trebuchet, a ballista and a cannon, said Lee Brice, assistant history professor.

Western’s one and only Trebuchet Battalion is made up of senior history major Steve Catania (Naperville, IL), senior manufacturing engineering technology major Jacob Hoerdeman (Peoria, IL) and junior physics major Patrick Szczypinski (Lake in the Hills, IL). Catania, with help from his physics and engineering buddies, constructed the one-third scale model siege engine last year as part of his Honors curriculum project. Medieval warriors used trebuchets to hurl large rocks and other heavy items into castles and fortifications during sieges.

Catania received an undergraduate research grant from the College of Arts and Sciences as well as funds from the history department, and it represents a great interdisciplinary effort with the departments of physics and manufacturing engineering, said Brice.

A ballistra, which was a Roman siege engine seen in the movie “Gladiator,” was the earliest technological advance in siege artillery, Brice explained. It operated by way of tension created by twisting ropes, which were often made of the hair of captive women and horses. Catania, Hoerdeman and Szczpinski will also display a cannon, modeled after late medieval siege artillery, they built from scratch.

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