Two students stand on a crane platform to drop a pumpkin for the Pumpkin Drop event.
Two Society of Physics Students drop a pumpkin from 60 feet in the air at the 13th Annual Pumpkin Drop.


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Smashing good time

The crowd stood in a semi-circle gazing up at the blue sky as a 60-foot-tall crane released the first large pumpkin. Within a few seconds, the pumpkin splattered on the ground spewing seeds, slime and guts in every direction of the CMU Plaza. That first drop signaled the start of the Society of Physic Students (SPS) 13th annual Pumpkin Drop held every Halloween.

“This event was started when Chad Middleton, professor of physics, was the advisor. I think it was started to be a fun way for the club to do more activities on campus,” said Assistant Professor of Physics Brian Hosterman, PhD, who is also the SPS advisor. “They used to drop the pumpkins from the top of the library, but it’s nice that we have this central location now.”

Throughout the three hours of loading pumpkins onto the crane and dropping them, SPS also held other physics demonstrations including a coke bottle rocket and bed of nails. The bed of nails demonstration featured a student sandwiched between two boards with nails sticking out of them. A cinder block was placed on the top board and smashed. Due to physics properties, the student was unharmed by any of the nails. 

CMU students were not the only onlookers at the event.

“Our main goal is outreach, especially trying to reach out to the elementary and middle schools,” says Physical and Environmental Sciences Senator Josh Lindsey. “It’s a good excuse for us to get kids excited and drop pumpkins off a crane.”

Lindsey has been a member of SPS and involved with the pumpkin drop for three years. He said each year at the Pumpkin Drop, SPS members hope to teach physics principles and how fun physics can be to kids and CMU students.

“For us as physics majors we spend a lot of time in the library or lab working, but for us to get out and explain it to a little kid and put it into terms they can understand is good.”

Hosterman thinks the SPS students involved in this event gain important leadership and organizational skills. SPS plans and runs the event, acquires the necessary materials (including the large, ugly pumpkins that a local pumpkin patch donates) and conduct outreach to local schools.

In the spring, SPS will host a similar event called the egg drop.

Smoke plumes out of a pumpkin at the annual Pumpkin DropA student demonstrates a coke bottle rocket.
SPS students demonstrate a nail bed.A pumpkin smashed on the ground after being dropped from 60-feet in the air.

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David Ludlam, Director of Public Relations

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