Meet the Pumpkin Chunkin Champions – American Chunker


Over the last few months, I have had the opportunity to meet with, and get to know the American Chunker Team. They are the current world champions of Punkin Chunkin for the Air Cannon Division.  The Air cannons are typically the “chunkers” that shoot the pumpkins the furthest. Note:  To learn more about the different divisions, check out this infographic. At first, you would think that people who gather together to shoot pumpkins from a cannon would be all about the fun and games, but I quickly learned how serious the American Chunker team is. They are a group formed from all types of trades, including several Engineers, including Mike Hughes, who use SOLIDWORKS – which is where this connection started.

I also quickly learned how Brian Labrie (the Captain of American Chunker) found the most talented group of professionals for his goal of being the best.  The team’s experts include a meteorologist, a ballistics expert, a statics expert, a Horticulturalist, and many others with extensive expertise, including several PhDs. The full 2014 team is listed here. Expertise aside, they are always pushing the limits of how to modify their air cannon to make pumpkins fly even further. Obviously, they don’t want me sharing any of their secrets, but I can tell you that they use SOLIDWORKS, and SOLIDWORKS Simulation as well as physical testing to replicate every aspect of the pumpkin in flight, and understand what happens to the pumpkin when it breaks the speed of sound. Yes, that’s right, these pumpkins will break the speed of sound, while travelling over 4,500 feet.

In August, I went to watch a practice run with their team in action. It was amazing to see their process of testing pumpkins firsthand, from selecting the right size pumpkin to adjusting the angle accordingly. At the end of the day, the “high intensity” tests were shot, in which you could barely see the pumpkin as it travelled to the sky so fast, then disappeared into the clouds (no joking here – they actually disappeared into the clouds).

We interviewed the team between practice launches, and produced a video that explains in more detail everything that goes into every aspect of this competition, from growing the perfect pumpkin to the actual launches…it’s quite a sight. Watch a preview below and be sure watch the exclusive video here.

A special thanks to American Chunker who generously invited us to be a part of their road to winning another championship.


Cliff Medling

Cliff Medling is a Senior Marketing Manager at SolidWorks and the host for the Born to Design Podcast.