Trebuchets

Background 

OMSI and the Lemelson Foundation partnered to plan the Da Vinci Challenge, a memorable celebration kicking off the opening of the Da Vinci: The Genius exhibition. And what’s more memorable than a giant working trebuchet?!

Challenges 

Fabricate an ancient siege weapon that’s useable, safe for outside public displays, and wildly fun to watch. Devise an outrageous way to invite the public into a new exhibition and experiment with basic physics.

Solution 
Custom Exhibits

As part of the Da Vinci Challenge, OMSI constructed a large-scale trebuchet (measured at over 20 feet tall) that fires everything from rubber chickens to pumpkins. In addition, more than 20 smaller trebuchets were produced to give visitors the opportunity to experiment with launching projectiles. The trebuchets were built to last and have been repurposed for other events, including the Portland Mini Maker Faire.

Exhibits as Teaching Tools

OMSI visitors used the smaller trebuchets to fire off a volley of tennis balls at the highly attended Da Vinci opening event. The trebuchets were designed to engage visitors in iterative testing and help them learn basic physics principles. Attendees were captivated by the trebuchets both as medieval machines and playful tools for open-ended experiments.