In 2005, student death rays ignited a 1-inch-thick piece of oak 100 feet away. This showed that the television show, MythBusters, was wrong when it said that ancient Greek scientist Archimedes could not have set ships on fire from a distance.
This year, variations on catapults and slings (including a trebuchet, which combines both concepts) all did well. But that was not the point.
Instead, the aim of the project was to show the difference between theory and practice. "In real-product development, that's why you're testing—to get insights into what does or does not work and what you want to do next," Wallace said.
Fox agreed. "You can have a really cool idea or theory, but when you build it you might hit obstacles you didn't anticipate."
Follow U.S. News Science on Twitter.