Why You Should Host a Pumpkin Drop— And How to Make It Happen #SPSplat

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Why You Should Host a Pumpkin Drop— And How to Make It Happen #SPSplat


Deanna Marshall, SPS Advisor and Zone Councilor, Central Washington University

Calling all SPS chapters: Are you looking for a fun way to raise funds, promote your chapter, reach a wide audience, and demonstrate physics and math in real time? Hosting a pumpkin drop will accomplish all four and answer these burning questions for spectators:

● What happens when parachutes, wings, or fins are added to a pumpkin?
● Will a pumpkin with fins fall at the same rate as a pumpkin with a parachute?
● How much bubble wrap is needed for the pumpkin to bounce once, twice, or not at all without breaking?
● What happens if the pumpkin is injected with liquid nitrogen?
● Does gutting a pumpkin change the volume or tone of its splat when it hits the ground?

Gather your friends near and far, and then challenge other departments, dorms, or clubs to see whose pumpkin…
● Makes the loudest splat
● Is most artistic
● Has the best decoration

Boost the difficulty by including an engineering design challenge. Be creative!
● Who can design an apparatus or housing that protects their pumpkin from the fall?
● Who can design a container that receives the pumpkin undamaged?
● How accurately can a pumpkin be dropped?

Up-close image of a pumpkin as it makes impact with the ground! #SPSplat

How to Host a Pumpkin Drop in Four Easy Steps

Step 1: Find the tallest building on campus.
Step 2: Get a bunch of pumpkins.
Step 3: Get access to the roof of the tallest building on campus.
Step 4: Drop pumpkins off the roof or from a window.

And Now for the Hard Part:

Set the date. Where possible, partner with another campus group’s event. This will increase the draw for both events, generate buzz, and broaden the pumpkin drop’s reach.

Secure a location. Since a lot of the fun of a pumpkin drop is watching and hearing each pumpkin fall from above, try to host your pumpkin drop from the highest point possible in your physics department or on campus. Be sure your landing area will allow a safe distance from the splat zone for your viewing audience.

Get the support of campus administration. Depending on your campus’ administration, you may need input and approval from facilities, security, and/or your department.

Rules and regulations. The rules and regulations for your pumpkin drop should encompass everything your participants need to know in order to satisfy safety requirements and ensure a fair event.

Registration. Encourage participants to preregister. One way to entice individuals and teams to register early is to offer a limited, time-sensitive early registration fee or special offer. For example, offer two pumpkins for $10 if registration is received two weeks before the event.

A word about money handling. Check with your school to find out how registration fees are to be recorded. Does your college allow organizations to accept funds via online payment tools like Venmo? Most schools have very specific rules governing how campus organizations receive and disburse monies. Follow those rules.

BYOP or purchase on site. Your registration form, rules, and regulations should specify if pumpkins are included in the registration fee, if entrants can bring their own pumpkins, or if they’ll be available for purchase on the spot. Local stores or farms may donate pumpkins or offer discounts for promotional consideration.

Create a Pumpkin Drop promotional description. This one- to two-paragraph blurb will be very helpful when talking with reporters, requesting donations, working with campus administrators, and keeping your chapter members on track. Be sure to include the six W’s (who, what, when, where, why, and website) and provide contact information.

The Pumpkin Drop is an annual fundraising event sponsored by CWU’s Society of Physics Students (SPS). The Pumpkin Drop features pumpkins being dropped from the roof of Discovery Hall. Individuals and teams from on or off campus are invited to participate. Preregistration is recommended; however, walk-up registrants are welcome. Individuals and teams preregistering by October 5 will receive a special two-for-the-price-of-one rate of $10 per category. After October 6, each pumpkin will be $10 per category.

The event will begin at 4 p.m. on Saturday, October 19, 2019, and run until the last pumpkin falls. Prospective students and their parents attending the Fall Open House are encouraged to stay for the Pumpkin Drop and join in the fun! Attendees can test their knowledge with trivia and check out brief science demonstrations between drops. Pumpkins will be dropped into the southwest courtyard of Discovery Hall. Funds from this event will be used to send students to PhysCon, an international physics conference, and to support other chapter events and activities. Additional details, rules, and a preregistration form can be found online at cwu.edu/physics/PumpkinDrop. Email sps [at] cwu.edu with questions.

Promote your event. Create a poster and hang it around campus. Here’s your chance to showcase your artistic flair and graphic design skills. Post it on your chapter’s social media pages. Remind your chapter members to share it on their personal sites and pages with the #SPSplat tag. Don’t forget to contact your school’s newspaper or radio station, as well as local media outlets. If you’ve partnered with another event or have a sponsor, include their information on your poster and promotional materials.

Pumpkin Drop site at Central Washington University. Photos courtesy of Rachel George.

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