In 2010 The MathWorks started construction on an expansion of their Natick MA Campus and part of the construction involved the demolition of a pre-existing low-rise building.
It was deemed important for the company to have a celebration of sorts around the event, and that is when Mista Ballista was called in to assist.
This was one of the more challenging events to organize. It certainly wasn't the MathWorks that made it so. Everyone on the event organizing committee was great. They just wanted to know where it would be dangerous, and where it would be safe. The challenge was that we needed to setup over the Memorial day weekend, and there weren't many faithful Team Tormentum crew around to help. On the morning of the delivery of Mr. B to the construction site, Roger's truck died. A few calls around found us a tow-truck willing to haul a ballista from our test firing range into Natick. As team captain Eric followed the tow truck into town, all he knew was that Jeff would meet me there, along with MathWorker Doug, who played team member for the day.
Setup Day: Saturday May 29
Mista Ballista is towed onto the construction site. On the far side of Mr. B the pit that will soon be the lower floor of a parking garage looms, with blasting mats waiting for a day with fewer catapults.
Jeff begins to unload the arms, while family draftees Amy and Ian get the air compressor ready.
A view from behind the machine we see Jeff, still unloading the arms. The low rise stands in range. Just behind it stands one of the other buildings we weren't supposed to be shooting at. Hmmm.
We were aiming for a window on the low rise, but aiming a ballista with a rented tow-truck is a bit difficult.
In the previous image, you can see that Mr. B seems to be sitting on uneven ground. Here Ian mans the landing gear which we use to level the machine. Later in the weekend we discovered that
we can shift our aim left to right by fiddling with the rear landing gear allowing us to home in our our preferred target... the window.
Kevin arrives. Huzzah! Kevin and Jeff now man the bundle tipping operation. One of the scariest parts of Mr. B's deployment strategy.
MathWorker, and temporary Team Tormentum member Doug looks on with disbelief. He couldn't believe that such an operation could work.
Jeff's younger brother couldn't seem to believe this either, and he's Jeff's brother!
Our Kevin (left) looked on nonchalantly while idly coaching another MathWorker we'll call Kevin2 who swung by to assist. He got to man the "safety winch" which is how we prevent disaster during the bundle tipping operation.
This is Amy's favorite picture as she arrives with lunch, and parks under some of the construction vehicles. The mini van sure looks mini.
Soon the arms were in, and we started winding the bundles. At the 2010 Punkin Chunk we had one full twist on top of all the pretensioning we did last year. This time we only put in 3/4 twist on each bundle. If we had shot our full distance, we'd hit the building behind the low-rise. The low rise was a measly 225 away. The next building was, perhaps, only 500ft away, and well within our range.
After getting the machine wound up and ready to fire, you'd think that's what we'd do. Instead many of our extra helpers left, and then it started to rain. One of the only dry spots was under the dump truck. From left to right is Kevin, then Jeff, then pretend Eric is there, but I had to take the picture.
Amazingly, the rain cleared up, and we got to take our test shots. We didn't get to fire until 6pm, because that's when the local business closed, and we didn't want to hit their customers. The little business is directly behind Mr. B's bundles in a nearby building that wasn't going to be destroyed. Our first shot we fired at the absolute lowest angle we could. It hit dirt directly in front of the building and pelted the building with small ice chunks, and sounded pretty cool. Perfect. We measured out that at 12 degrees, we shot 163 feet or so. We could then reverse the trajectory, and do the math to figure out that a direct hit would occur at 20 degrees.
In this picture it was our second 12 degree shot (to double check everything). Earlier, Doug had left to pick up Josh Stevens, who is the Live Off Groupon guy. He happened to be in the Boston area, and was excited to take a test shot. Later he blogged about this event.
Josh ( @Groupawned ) launches a 10lbs block of ice 162.5 feet (just shy of the target building) out of a 4+ton Ballista (catapult) modelled off a 2500 year o...
MathWorker Doug took the third shot at 20 degrees. As you can see here, we are shooting 10lb blocks of ice. Unfortunately, the custom throwing pouch I had put together started to fail, the ice slipped side-ways, and struck the left upright, bounced off to the right into some blasting mats. Drat! We only had one block of ice left. (Blocks of ice come in sleeves of 4.)
Eric dismantled the throwing pouch, and re-strung the sides from scratch to better fit the ice. We put in the 4th and last block of ice, and let Amy pull the trigger. Lady luck came through and we hit the building squarely, just above the window and to the left. Luckily and sadly the building was unharmed.
Event Day: Saturday June 1st
June 1st was not my typical work day. I still had meetings to go to in the morning, but grabbed this picture of Mista Ballista from my office window. How awesome is that!? Eventually I got the call that my ice delivery had arrived and it was time to really get to work.
Kevin gets out the bowstring for installation. In this picture you can see that the Mr. B is listing slightly to the left. We had also hit the building on the weekend just to the left. We cranked up our left side to even things out.
A view through Mr. B's gullet. Can you tell I really want to hit that window???
The crowd begins to arrive. Under the white canopy various important people gave speeches.
Under the white canopy is Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki (center), and state Senator Karen Spilka (right) who gave speeches about stuff that didn't have much to do about catapults. Also under the canopy is MathWorks CEO Jack Little (right), who also talked about non-catapult things, eventually introduced us, and did talk at length about Eric (A MathWorks employee), Mista Ballista, and the Punkin Chunk. Huzzah!
Thanks Steve Eddins for this picture.
Bialecki along with a MathWorker volunteer wait patiently for Mr. B to be cranked back to the firing position. Dave operates the winch, and checks the dyno. We marked on the dyno the exact point to stop pullback so that we could guarantee a consistent shot from those we had on the weekend.
Misfortune on the picture side of things with news camera guys in the way, here is the best I have of just before our official launch at the low rise for the event. I labeled folks so you can see that Bialecki along with a MathWorker volunteer and lottery winner got to take the shot. Waiting while the machine is fully cocked back is always a bit of a harrowing experience. Thanks Rich Ohman for this picture.
Foom, off goes the block of ice. Thanks Rich Ohman for this picture.
As part of an expansion project, MathWork demolishes a building
Splat! The ice block sticks to the wall. All that strategy with the rear landing gear worked to our advantage as we hit the building right over the window. Thanks Steve Eddins for this picture.
Well, because we had to play it safe with ice blocks, they then brought in some heavy equipment for the actual building destroying part of the show. Getting to see this thing rip the wall down was super cool. Thanks Steve Eddins for this picture.
Once the crowd dispersed to get their ice cream, we continue taking pot shots at the building. Several construction workers got to pull the trigger. After each shot we assessed where we hit the building and changed our launch angle.
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Smash! We finally get the window. (And some ice cream!)
Looking through the hole in the window, Kevin's camera shows that we also went through the next window, across the hall, and through the window after that. Mayhem and destruction! What could be better than that?
MathWorks CEO Jack Little, Eric, and Dave were all super excited about hitting the window. (Some of us more than others perhaps.)
And with that Team Tormentum wins the Golden Shovel! Huzzah!
I (Eric Ludlam) and all of Team Tormentum would like to thank all the hard work that the MathWorks put into having such a cool event that included our favorite ballista. Media on this web page includes the work of Steve Eddins and Rich Ohman. Event organizers Matt Lennon and Kevin2 Lorenc came out to help set up, though Matt had additional motives of making sure we didn't break anything.
Thanks to Dan of Cranshaw Construction for building us a little island in the pit for setting up Mr. B so that we'd be centered on the building. Thanks to Jeanne O'Keefe for taking us seriously when shooting stuff with a ballista was proposed. Special thanks to Doug, who pitched the idea to Jeanne, and then came out on his days off to help get things set up. It was an awesome event, and we all had a great time.