AUS students catapult into fame

SHARJAH - Eight teams from the American University of Sharjah (AUS) recreated Arab history by bringing the trebuchet (catapult) back to Arabia after an absence of centuries in an exciting competition that saw students compete against each other to design, build and discharge a model trebuchet.

By (By a staff reporter)

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Published: Wed 28 Apr 2004, 9:54 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 2:01 AM

Barrak Al Babtain, Ali Hasan and Basel Shubaiber were declared winners of the Terrific Trebuchet Tournament, held on April 25, on the AUS campus grounds. Second place went to team members Sosana Al Barrak, Noora Al Dosari, Iman Attar, Manal Al Muhairi, and Manar Bukalla while Ranim Hajjar, Lina Saleh, and Dana Al Mazrouei came in third.

The teams comprised students from Dr Paul E. Chevedden's "History of Science and Technology" and Professor Said Sakhi's "History for Architects" classes.

Dr Chevedden, the world's leading authority on trebuchets, said this type of catapult is the most powerful form of mechanical artillery ever invented. "We have only recently begun to reconstruct the history and operating principles of the trebuchet. Scholars as yet have made no comprehensive effort to examine all the available evidence. In particular, Islamic technical literature has been neglected," said Dr Chevedden.

The principle of the trebuchet is simple: it is a mechanised sling. It consists of a beam that pivots around an axle that divides the beam into a long and short arm. The longer arm terminates in a sling for hurling the missile, and the shorter one in an attachment for pulling ropes or a counterweight. When the device is positioned for launch, the short arm is aloft. As soon as the beam is released, the long arm flies upwards and hurls the missile from the sling.

The trebuchet originated in China between the 5th and 4th centuries B.C.E. Arabia was familiar with the traction trebuchet prior to the rise of Islam, and the armies of Islam carried the new artillery in all directions during the 7th and 8th centuries from the Indus to the Atlantic. By the 8th century the civilisation of Islam had greatly improved China's human-powered artillery.

Professor Chevedden has uncovered historical evidence that the Muslims introduced a much larger traction-powered machine that used gravity to assist in the discharge of a projectile. The most powerful hybrid machines could launch shots about three to six times as heavy as those of the most commonly used large catapults of Greco-Roman antiquity.

The popular AUS event attracted a large crowd of students and faculty members and was sponsored by the AUS Student Council, Nokia, Bakri International Energy and the Campus Journal.

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