Programs & Awards  

Albert Einstein & Smashing Pumpkins

Highland Engineering students assemble the 30 ft base of their trebuchet.  
Bombs away!  

For the past seventeen years, the California State University-Chico (CSUC) chapter of SPS has held an annual outreach activity known as the "Pumpkin Drop." The event consists of a public demonstration of Galileo's Law of Falling Bodies, which states that all objects accelerate towards the earth at an equal rate.

In celebration of the 2005 World Year of Physics, the CSUC chapter applied for and received a Marsh W. White Award, and the funds were used to enhance this year's event with a World Year of Physics theme. This was achieved by including World Year of Physics content and banners in the public demonstration, as well as the addition of an Albert Einstein character to the scripted performances. The Einstein character joined Galileo and Aristotle in introducing concepts of relativistic gravitation. This helped increase local interest in the World Year of Physics and served as a tribute to Einstein's "miraculous year."

In Galileo's legendary demonstration at the tower of Pisa, two cannon balls of different masses were dropped together and it was observed that both hit the ground simultaneously.

Highland Engineering students assemble the 30 ft base of their trebuchet.  
A chapter member dressed as Albert Einstein explains the concepts of relativistic gravitation to school children.  

Under the supervision of CSUC chapter advisor Dr. David Kagan (SPS Outstanding Chapter Advisor, 1992), a team of SPS members reenact this experiment using pumpkins of varying sizes. Several SPS members handle the setup, dropping of the pumpkins, and cleanup. Two members are nominated to play the roles of Galileo and Aristotle, with the addition this year of Albert Einstein. The students perform a scripted argument in front of a large audience, explaining the physical concepts involved in the experiment.

The event is held on the CSUC campus, and approximately two hundred people attend, including about one hundred local school children. Invitations are sent to multiple K-8 classrooms and the event is eagerly anticipated by teachers and children alike.

Highland Engineering students assemble the 30 ft base of their trebuchet.
A large crowd of spectators from grades K-8 and the university, eagerly await the annual Pumpkin Drop.

 


 
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