Camden County Technical School hosts hot dog launcher competition

More than 100 middle school students from Camden County participated. Ann. A Mullen School in Gloucester Township came in second place.

C.W. Lewis Middle School students drill a hole into the hot dog launcher. From left, Shannon Pinizzotto, Timothy Koebernik and Rachel Weast.

What do you get when you put hot dogs, tools and science together? A world of unlimited possibilities, and a gymnasium floor covered in hot dogs.

More than 100 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students from various schools in Camden County gathered at Camden County Technical School for the first ever CCTS Technology Challenge. The challenge was to build hot dog launchers and launch the hot dogs as far as they could go. One of the teams from Ann A. Mullen School in Gloucester Township came in second place and also won the Team Spirit Award.

The mission of the CCTS Technology Challenge was not just about engineering, constructing and building, but to solve problems working collaboratively as a team.

“We wanted to spread the message of the great things going on at this school and how great our students are and wanted to expose other students in the county to some of the things we’re doing and have an education fun day,” said Camden County Technical Principal Greg Cappello. “We’re always thinking of different ways we can do that.”

Hannah Allmond was on Team Tesla from Mullen School and said it was the best day.

“It was so much fun,” she said. “I love science and engineering because you get to create whatever you want.

Ann A. Mullen Middle School sixth grader Hannah Allmond inserts her team’s hot dog launcher into the wooden frame with help from Camden County Technical High School teacher Scott Slattery.

“I think it’s pretty cool we can all build hot dog launchers, and it’s cool we can understand STEM and how it actually works in the real world,” said C.W. Lewis seventh grader Shannon Pinizzotto.

Twenty-five teams had three hours in the morning to construct the launchers out of PVC pipes. They were provided a packet of instructions and tools such as drills and wrenches. For some of the students, it was the first time they ever worked with tools.

“With the kids handling these power tools, a lot of them are seeing that they like doing it, which is great because not everyone is going to be college bound,” said Scott Slattery, welding teacher at CCTS. “Trades and career programs we teach here are for the kids who want to go out to different fields as opposed to going to college, which is great opportunity for a lot of people.”

Cherry Hill’s John A. Carusi Middle School was one of the teams that participated, and eighth grader Brendan Casuscelli said the day was a learning experience for him.

“It’s really fun,” he said. “I learned a lot of new stuff. I learned about valves and how they work and how I thought this would be something small, but with all the power you can actually fire something really fast.”

“I love working together with everyone and trying to learn things,” teammate Selina Lin said. “I love that we’re all able to work together and be able to come up with this amazing launcher.”

Team Tesla from Ann. A Mullen Middle School watches their hot dog launch into the air. From left, Hannah Allmond, Ian Marano, Stefan Simon and John Pettineoli.

Students and teachers from Camden County Technical School assisted and helped mentor each team to help construct the launchers. Junior Justin Harrison was one of them, and he said he thinks with a challenge like this, these middle school students will be more prepared going into high school.

“It means a lot to me because they can get experience and learn how to do things like we do,” he said. “Once they get to the high school level, they can do what we do and be even better.”

All the teams competed in the afternoon. One by one, they inserted their newly constructed hot dog launchers into wooden frames and then inserted hot dogs before launching them into the air at targets set up throughout the gymnasium. More than 1,200 hot dogs were brought in for this event.

“There is something special about watching a light go on in a young person’s mind when they know they have accomplished something with their own two hands,” said Ernie Histing, hydro-technology teacher and Sicklerville resident. “The culmination was watching their excitement as they fired their launchers, and they worked.”

An estimated 1,200 hot dogs were used in the competition.

Carusi STEM teacher Tom Kelly said he hopes his students realize anything is possible if they put their mind to it.

“I’m hoping they see what they can do is possible, build their confidence and take these skills and bring them into the classroom,” he said.

Matthew Dumele, sixth grader from Ann. A Mullen, had a smile from ear to ear as the day neared the end. He said he loved everything about the event, from creating with friends to learning about engineering and science.

“Engineering helps you solve any problem that comes your way, and my friends and I learned that,” he said. “This was really magical. I hope I do this when I’m older.”