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Three Contraptions Are Successful in Windy Pumpkin Drop

Portsmouth Christian students celebrate their successful catch.

Student-built pumpkin catchers had to withstand more than mass and gravity Thursday in the annual Old Dominion University Society of Physics Students Pumpkin Drop. The wind made it very difficult for the students on the roof of the nine-story Batten Arts and Letters Building to drop pumpkins precisely onto or into catchers on the ground below.

But three catchers did accomplish what they were designed to do.

Peter Hamilton and Khyber Rooney-Rabdau, students in the Physics 231 class of Desmond Cook, had perhaps the simplest design. Their "Ghost Catcher," named for the ghostly tarp that covered it, was made of 18 cardboard boxes and lawn clippings.

Andrew Benfante and Jesse Caldwell, students in the Physics 232 class of Charles Hyde, used a more intricate design for their successful catcher. It had a wooden frame holding a plastic net over rolls of attic insulation and sheets of Styrofoam.

The third successful catcher was the work of students at Portsmouth Christian High School, whose teams are perennial winners in the Pumpkin Drop. The design of Joel Cruz, Bobby Mackley and Nathan Kitchie looked like a large die (as in dice) made of plywood and filled with hay and balloons.

About half of the dozen catchers in the competition did not get a square hit because of the windy conditions, and therefore did not get a chance to give a pumpkin a soft landing. Several of these got glancing blows that destroyed them, to the amusement of the 200 spectators.

The spectators also were treated to a grand finale called "Pumpkinpocalypse," in which about 50 pumpkins unused in the competition were rained down onto the landing zone, creating a pumpkin field of shards.

This article was posted on: October 27, 2011

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