The Human Catapult Makes Base Jumping Even More Extreme

Apr 28, 2015 By Christi Mulligan
In Fayetteville, West Virginia, Mechanical Engineer Jason Bell has become a local celebrity, of sorts. Originally a volunteer at Bridge Day, Bell stood by while daredevil and sports extremists hurled themselves over the edge of the New River Gorge Bridge. About 400 base jumpers each year choose to leap from the 876-foot-high bridge.

Around two years ago, Bell decided to create an option for the thrill-seeking attendees and created his own 2,500-pound human catapult. Bell spent close to an entire year drafting the structural design, a sturdy base and an arm made of steel tubing. He used a specific three-dimensional software to complete the task called SolidWorks. Then, Bell determined he would create a 12-foot-long rotating arm, and using his specifications, a local workshop created the part. While it was being completed, he worked nights and weekends in his garage to craft a compressed-air launching system.

Initially tested using stuffed animals, bags of laundry and then, eventually, 200-pound sandbags in his front yard, Bell and friend Joe Caulfield took the contraption to the local lake. Although each test resulted in minor adjustments, eventually the catapult was ready for the ultimate task of Bridge Day. It was a huge hit among the base jumpers and is a fan favorite.
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