Pumpkins and Physics Collide with a Splat

Gravity was put to work with a Halloween twist in the third annual Pumpkin Drop on Friday afternoon, where student scientists dropped fruits and vegetables out of a high window to watch the explosive results.

A crowd of about 60 spectators gathered below the open window of Jefferson Labs 450 while students released pumpkins, squash, and apples onto a tarp on the pavement below from a height of 38 feet.

The falling items were pre-treated in a number of ways, including microwaving, freezing in a conventional freezer, and dipping in liquid nitrogen.

The event, jointly sponsored by the Harvard College Engineering Society and the Society of Physics Students, was coupled for the first time this year with an egg drop competition.

The competition challenged entrants to create a device which would prevent a raw egg from cracking when dropped out of the window.

The competition drew 13 entries made out of materials such as newspaper, tissue paper, and plastic bags.

Entries were weighed before the event, and the official rules dictated that the winning device would be the lightest entry which still succeeded in keeping the egg from cracking.

After the eggs were dropped, Jeff W. Iuliano ’13, who used plastic bags in his design to reduce the speed and power of the ground impact, was crowned the winner.

“[The competition] sounded like something fun that I would want to do on a Friday afternoon,” Iuliano said. “I ended up not having a problem set due for physics, so I had free time all of a sudden. So this morning I just got a bunch of stuff and put it in a bag. It succeeded, and it was light.”

Nearly all of the competitors entered the competition through their physics or engineering classes, said Samuel M. Meyer ’13, the event coordinator for SPS.

Ryan C. Hellar ’13, another student who participated in the egg drop, said he learned about the competition in his Engineering Sciences 125 class.

“Our final project is somewhat related to this, so our professor suggested we do it as good practice,” Hellar said.

This year’s event was the most well attended so far, according to Meyer.

“We had good turnout in the past, but I think it’s been steadily increasing year after year,” he said, adding that he was particularly impressed given that many students attendees were taking classes that had problem sets due on Fridays.

“I’m always happy to see that we’ve got a lot of people out here,” Meyer said.

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