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Physics Students' Pumpkin Drop Spiced Up by 'Betty Crocker' Hoax

The remains of the pumpkin pie smashed in the Pumpkin Drop

A pumpkin catcher modeled after a kitchen stove turned out to be a very funny hoax, but several other catchers actually performed well at the 12th annual Pumpkin Drop sponsored by the Old Dominion University Society of Physics Students on Thursday, Oct. 28, at the Batten Arts and Letters (BAL) Building on the ODU campus.

The pumpkin catcher entered by each team of students is supposed to provide a safe landing for a pumpkin dropped nine stories from the top of BAL. But a team of catcher builders from Portsmouth Christian Schools created their plywood, stove-like contraption with a surprise in mind. They called their entry "The Betty Crocker Experience," and inside the oven compartment they had secreted a pumpkin pie over to the side, supposedly out of harm's way.

The students planned to have the plunging pumpkin drop inside their contraption and be smashed to smithereens. Then, they would open the oven, and pull out the pie, as if the smashed pumpkin had been transformed by magic into dessert.

But the pumpkin that hit their catcher was a particularly large one and when it exploded in the stove it smashed the pie to smithereens. So much for magic!

The "Betty Crocker" team members are students of Aaron Karavias, a Portsmouth Christian teacher who holds a degree in physics from ODU. His teams have been frequent winners in the competition for the past five years.

The catcher of a second Portsmouth Christian team, "The Golden Goose," kept up the winning tradition, giving a pumpkin a soft landing. Two successful catchers were  the work of ODU students. One successful catcher was built by Reese Gelians and Chris Watkins, who are students of Professor Sebastian Kuhn. Another was a simple cardboard box and hay entry built by a student who gave  his name as Thomas Genova, but whose department affiliation was unknown.

Approximately 200 spectators were on hand for this year's Pumpkin Drop, which featured not only the demonstration of catchers, but also physics experiments using the falling pumpkins. An added attraction was a streak through the crowd by a person in an ape suit chasing a person dressed like a banana.

This article was posted on: October 27, 2010

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