North Augusta High School's band practice field was turned into a competitive arena Monday morning for the 20th iteration of the tomato launch.

Students in Kathy Gambill's AP Physics class built trebuchets and catapults to send tomatoes across the field into a hula hoop, mixing engineering, mechanics and physics into one activity.

Gambill said the tomato launch is her favorite day of the year.

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Karmen Bradley, right, pulls the release on her machine, The Mater Hater. Looking on is Jack Bradley. 

"I love it because they are so excited," she said. "Believe it or not, they build all these machines on their own time."

Students use the internet, get help from their friends and parents, use power tools and, of course, use their brains, she said.

"They generally finish today saying, 'Let's do another one.'"

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Tanner Preissler pulls the release on his machine, Throw-Mater. Looking on is Justin Preissler. 

The students, who either work alone or in a team, are asked to build a machine, which is no bigger than 8 feet by 4 feet at the base, that will launch a tomato between 60 to 70 feet away. They don't know the exact distance until the morning of the competition, so the machines must be adjustable.

They are allowed three calibration attempts and then three competition attempts. The team with the closest tomato during the competition attempts wins. Twelve total teams competed in this year's launch. 

This year, the winners were Christian Bumpus and Daniel Pierson, who built a catapult called Ketchup With Us. The machine landed a tomato closest to the target, coming within 2 feet and 8 inches.

Bumpus said it took them four or five days to build the machine.

"It allows us to be very hands on and keeps us active, too," he said.

Tanner Harmon, who build a catapult with Owen Wells called Haywood, said the project is fun because it allows them to look at things differently.

"It's fun," Wells said. "It's hands on, and I really like that."

Molly Lindsey, who build a catapult with teammate Reagan Dean, said it's cool to be able to look back at something she built with her own hands.

It took them three or four days to complete, Lindsey said, factoring in the time of designing and building the machine.

Gambill said the project is often the students' first experience with engineering.

"This is a really great opportunity for them to put engineering into practice and see if they like it," she said.

Lindsey Hodges is a general assignment reporter at the Aiken Standard and North Augusta Star. Follow her on Twitter at @LindseyNHodges. 

Lindsey is the North Augusta reporter at the Aiken Standard and North Augusta Star. She graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2017, and grew up in Hodges, SC.