School children cry out, demand mass pumpkin executions for science


One of the Chico State physics students wearing a pumpkin on his head during the annual pumpkin drop. Photo credit: Keelie Lewis

The piercing screams of children rang out across campus as gourds hit the floor for the Department of Physics and Society of Physics Students 31st Annual Pumpkin Drop. Visiting elementary students reveled and raved as the pumpkins slammed into the concrete.


Let it never be said these squash were tossed for naught. These brave, vine-grown vegetables were sacrificed in the name of science so some of these kids might learn a lesson or two.

The first lesson of the day: Don’t be a pumpkin on Halloween. If you are a pumpkin on Halloween, they will find you, they will cut you open, they will scoop out your insides and they will bake them into a pie. Last, but certainly not least, as if to add insult to injury, they will carve your now hollowed carapace into a grinning effigy and put you display in front of their house for all to see.

An elementary school student picking up some of the remaining pumpkin off of the ground. Photo credit: Keelie Lewis

Next, the students quickly learned that the top of a 50-foot tall hydraulic crane is not the natural habitat for a pumpkin as they seem to have a tendency to fall and explode in a spectacular fashion. Any pumpkin who finds themselves in such an environment should immediately seek a representative from the Department of Physics or Society of Physics Students who can then assist in a safe and efficient return to the ground at an accelerating rate of approximately 9.8 meters per second.

Of course, the pumpkins were all part of a clever ruse. The real goal of the gourd versus gravity free-for-all was to educate and get kids interested in physics and how the world around them works.

“It’s about having fun with science,” Said Professor Nick Nelson. “This is a lighthearted way to show that you can conduct an experiment and see how things work.”

To the untrained eye, this might just seem like a really good excuse to throw things and make a huge mess. While this may be true there is more going on, so much more.

“You can actually figure out something about the way the universe operates (by) throwing pumpkins off of a lift…” Nelson said


Some may have noticed the falling pumpkins were not lobbed off the top of Butte Hall as per previous years. In response to events that occurred last semester, the Physics Department opted for mobile elevating work platform rather than the use of one of the local halls. The script for the event also saw subtle revisions that were intended to help keep the day focused on fun and physics.

Dan Christian can be reached at [email protected] or @DanoftheOrion on Twitter.