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When dropped from the top of Batten Arts and Letters Building, a pumpkin travels 100 feet and achieves a velocity of about 25 meters per second, or 55 miles per hour, before it hits the ground. If the kinetic energy of the globular vegetable is converted instantaneously by contact with the ground, you get what is known among physicists as the big splatter.

But if the landing can be cushioned, the splatter can be avoided and the pumpkin can be spared. This is known as the successful catch, which will be the goal of teams of students entered in the Pumpkin Drop on Thursday, Oct. 27. Sponsored by the Society of Physics Students, the event features teams that will design and construct a pumpkin catcher using any material other than foam peanuts, which were banned because they are difficult to clean up.

The annual Halloween-season event will be from 12:30-1:30 p.m. at BAL. Gift certificates worth $50 each will be awarded to the team or teams that build the most creative plausible catcher as well as the catcher that is most compact in height.

ODU pumpkin catchers of the past have included humble cardboard boxes filled with straw as well as more elaborate contraptions similar to a trapeze safety net. Successful catches have been made by catchers only two feet tall.

Charles Hyde-Wright, professor of physics and faculty advisor for the Pumpkin Drop, directs potential spectators to video clips from past events at www.physics.odu.edu/~sps/sps2000 /sps-pumpkin2002.

This article was posted on: October 24, 2005

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