Jennifer Prichard received
her brush with stardom when she was chosen to appear on the
documentary Superweapons of the
Ancient World, which will air on the Discovery
Channel in the fall of 2004.
Prichard, Jordan Finch, Al Cobb and Larry Shanes worked
as a team to design, construct and test the 40-ft. siege
documentary, produced by Darlow Smithson Productions, London,
challenges a team of young engineers and timber framers to
design, construct and test ancient Greek and Roman military
Prichard, who graduated in 2002
with a masters degree in civil engineering from Oklahoma
State University, worked with three other team members to
recreate a giant siege tower. A similar device was used nearly
2,400 years ago in the Battle of Motya between the Greeks
and Carthaginians. Soldiers from the Greek city-state of Syracuse,
serving under Dionysius I, used an armored tower, in effect
a primitive tank, to breach perimeter walls and overtake the
Filmed in April in the small fishing
town of Essaouira, Morocco, the show documents Prichard and
her team members working to design and build completely in
only seven days a structure that would allow an army to traverse
28-ft-high walls. The 40-ft tower consisted of four stories
with ramps and a drawbridge, which was built to be level with
the second highest level of a city's walls. The tower weighed
approximately 18,000 lbs. The structure had less rolling resistance
than the engineers expected. It could be moved by pulley system
and four camels.
the structure's basic form took shape, the team added
The tower was built completely
with timber, including eucalyptus wood and rough sawn pine
lumber. Prichard's "contributions were very important in that
we were dealing with multiple species of timber," says fellow
team member Al Cobb, a builder with construction experience
in timber framing. "We were dealing with forces not normally
seen in standard or conventional timber framing."
As the only team member with timber
design experience, Prichard helped guide the team toward a
physically sound structural design. Prichard performed all
of the calculations, reassuring the team that the tower would
not topple, says Cobb.
"She tested all of the designs
for safety, and she kept us from dying," says team member
Larry Shanes, who graduated in 2004 from University of North
Carolina-Charlotte with a degree in mechanical engineering
Past experience with civil engineering
projects helped Prichard significantly in construction of
the working replica. A veteran of team cooperation, Prichards
college career includes involvement in the Southwest Mississippi
Resource Conservation & Developments National Timber
Bridge Design Competition, American Institute of Steel Constructions
National Student Steel Bridge Competition and American Society
of Civil Engineers National Concrete Canoe Competition.
"Concrete canoe is almost a year-long process, from the
design and conceptual phase to competition," says the
five-time participant of ASCE's NCCC. "It taught me how
to think outside of the box."
Prichards ability to depart
from convention is exactly what led the documentarys
producers to select her from 1,200 contenders. "When
I applied, I never thought I would get chosen, says Prichard.
"Im a huge reality show fan. It was an experience
I will never forget."
Prichard is now working as a structural
designer with The Benham Companies, Inc. in Oklahoma City.
Her primary focus is on projects ranging from dining facilities
to communication towers.
(All photos courtesy of