BLUFFTON — Being a fan of “The Lord of the Rings” has paid off for Bluffton Middle School eighth-grader Landon Cluts.
Specifically, it is the inclusion of trebuchets in the books and movies that really interest Landon.
His local, regional and district science fair project is all about the medieval weapon used to knock down walls or lob projectiles over them. He will soon compete statewide and nationally.
“I was surprised to get to districts at all,” Landon said. “There is a lot of pressure. It’s a little nerve-racking. I just had to get around it.”
Landon’s project starts with a hypothesis: Doubling the size of a trebuchet will make it throw twice as far. While trebuchets are normally large, Landon constructed smaller versions, the largest being 5 feet. He used Play-Doh for his projectile. His hypothesis fell slightly short.
The project included a research paper, charts and data tables. Landon received a superior rating at the local competition. He placed third overall and second in physics at regionals, and earned one of two perfect scores and a U.S. Navy Award at districts. He got the Navy Award at regionals too.
Other Bluffton pupils headed to the May 8 state contest are Courtney Barnett, Jonah Bourassa, Joshua Bracey, Andrew Hoff, Audrey Marshall, Celeste Stauber and Jill Steinmetz.
Landon qualifies for the national Discovery Channel Young Scientist Challenge. He’ll send his entry next month and learn results in the fall.
Landon wasn’t interested in entering the local competition, but his mom pushed him to.
“At first I wasn’t thrilled about doing it, but now I’m pretty happy,” he said, adding that he might expand his project to other siege weapons for the high school competition.
The project added to Landon’s interest in being a physicist. He’s also considering medicine. He wants to attend Case Western University.
With a 4.0 grade-point average, Landon is on the quiz bowl team. He was previously in Student Senate.
Landon plays percussion in the school band and cello in the strings orchestra. He also plays guitar. Percussion proved a perfect fit.
“I’m always hitting things,” he said. “I’m always going around making a beat.”
Landon plays community soccer and will play in high school. He also swims and is on the Bluffton Sardines. His parents started him swimming years ago, but it was not until more recently that Landon took notice that he’s good at it.
Swimming multiple events, he’s never finished below second in local meets and took fifth and 11th place in championships.
“It feels good to win,” he said. “It’s that feeling you get when you know you have to beat yourself. It’s you against the clock.”
Project propels pupil to state, national science fair