Look out below: Pumpkin drop returns after accident last year

WSU Physics and Astronomy Club enforce training, wider drop radius



Spectators watch as 13 pumpkins are dropped from the 12th floor of the Webster Physical Science Building, Oct. 16, 2021.

GABRIELLE FELICIANO, Evergreen life editor

The annual pumpkin drop from Webster Physical Sciences Building is returning at 10:30 a.m. and at noon Saturday.

WSU’s Physics and Astronomy Club, which hosts the event, has implemented more precautions after an accident last year caused minor injuries, said President Alex Heinrich.

At last year’s pumpkin drop, one member dropped a pumpkin improperly, making it ricochet off the side of the building and into the crowd below. No one was hit by the pumpkin directly, but parts of the pumpkin that broke after it fell bruised one child.

To prevent this from happening again, Heinrich said the club did a practice drop Thursday night, required training for droppers and widened the drop radius. Members who did not complete the training are not allowed to participate in the drop.

The club has also continued to train the members who are controlling the crowd, doing demonstrations and supervising pumpkin painting, he said.

When the club skipped the pumpkin drop in 2020 due to the pandemic, members lost that experience for following years, which led to the accident, Heinrich said. Until 2021, none occurred in the 16 years the club had hosted the event.

“There was a lack of documentation,” Heinrich said. “When the next year would set up the event, they relied on the experience of the previous year, and if you skip a year, then you could lose a lot of that experience, … which we’ve fixed.”

Heinrich said that each pumpkin drop follows a different theme and that this year’s is constellations. Members will drop about 40 decorated pumpkins from the 12th floor of the building one at a time, with one half dropping at 10:30 a.m. and the other at noon. One member will announce each pumpkin and its concept to the crowd before it drops.

Inside the building, people can participate in demonstrations that show off physics-related phenomena like gravity and static electricity, said Heinrich.

These demonstrations range from using liquid nitrogen to shrink balloons filled with air to using a Van de Graaff generator to make one’s hair stand up, he said. The Physicists for Inclusion in Science Club and Optical Society of America and the Society of Photographic Instrumentation Engineers student chapter will also do physics-related demonstrations at the event.

Starting at 10 a.m., people can also paint pumpkins that members will drop at noon with their own pumpkins, Heinrich said. The Eggert Family Organic Farm on campus donated all of the pumpkins for the event.

Mars Seemiller, Physics and Astronomy Club outreach officer, said the event was fun for the community and good for educating children.

“Kids always love seeing the pumpkins shatter and love seeing the demonstrations,” Seemiller said. “It’s always cool to see kids learning about physics even in this small way. It gets them interested in science a little bit more and lets them see what possibilities they have.”

Heinrich said to bring friends and family to the event.

“The focus of [the event] is really to engage with the community, to invite those from around Pullman and who are visiting current students to really just have an enjoyable time,” Heinrich said.