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Today’s Forecast: Partly Cloudy and Warm with a Good Chance of Falling Pumpkins

By Jim Raper

For the first time in 11 years, Old Dominion's Pumpkin Drop, which is always held on the last Thursday of October, will hit on Halloween.

Expect especially shrill whistles from pumpkins plunging nine stories to their fate. Expect especially violent endings for the pumpkins that don't survive the fall.

What is the Pumpkin Drop?

It features student-built pumpkin catchers, some of them intricately designed and elaborately decorated and others hardly more than cardboard boxes filled with hay or tubs filled with mud. The object is to identify those catchers that can give soft landings to pumpkins dropped to the ground from atop the Batten Arts and Letters Building. The event is sponsored by the ODU Society of Physics Students, which invites the scientific minded, as well as common thrill seekers, to join them for the show beginning at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 31.

For the event, teams of students design and build the pumpkin catchers, which serve as targets for other students who drop pumpkins from the top of BAL. Sometimes the catchers do their jobs, but many of the contraptions end up smashed, just like the pumpkins that hit them. Spectators can congregate on the BAL lawn to watch the mayhem.

As befits a serious scientific investigation, physics students will conduct several experiments using the plummeting pumpkins. In addition to studying the effectiveness of different pumpkin catcher designs for harmlessly dissipating the pumpkins' kinetic energy, they will repeat Galileo's well-known gravitation experiment using pumpkins instead of cannonballs.

Prizes or extra credit will be awarded for the best pumpkin catchers.

To learn more about the Society of Physics Students and the Pumpkin Drop, visit http://sci.odu.edu/physics/opportunities/sps/ or contact physics faculty member Stephen Bueltmann (sbueltma@odu.edu) or student society representative Mathieu Ehrhart (mehrh002@odu.edu). Go to http://www.lions.odu.edu/~lweinste/sps/PumpkinMono.mp3 to hear the sound of a falling pumpkin.

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