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Sunday, June 4, 2023

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Video courtesy of Explore SDSU: The Division of Student Affairs and Campus Diversity

Smashing Pumpkins (Not the Band) at SDSU

Students formed teams to try and safely protect their pumpkins from a perilous 30-foot drop in the Aztec Student Union.
By Melinda Sevilla and Audrey Chuakay

If you walked past San Diego State University’s Aztec Plaza on Thursday and thought you were losing your mind, you weren’t. Yes, those were pumpkins falling out of the sky from a construction scissor lift. 


The 6th Annual College of Engineering Pumpkin Drop took place in the center of campus in the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union. What is this pumpkin drop, you may ask? It's like an egg drop, but with a pumpkin. The goal is not to smash your pumpkin from a 30-foot drop.


The competition, spearheaded by the College of Engineering Student Council (CESC), is open to all majors. Year after year, the event tasks teams with designing and building a structure that protects a pumpkin. 


Before competing, teams provide judges with a list of materials used for their contraptions. The guidelines for the rigs are straightforward: no hard materials, no safety hazards and no dangerous materials or fluids other than water. Structures can’t be larger than three feet tall or wide or over 50 pounds. Most importantly, the pumpkin needs to be free-falling – no bungies, thrusters, or zip lines – and needs to hit the ground within 10 seconds of being dropped.


Looking back at last year’s submissions, CESC president and computer engineering senior Tito Hernandez said the bar keeps getting raised. 


“Last year, there was a team that simply dropped their pumpkin in a tub of water and besides the stem hitting the side and getting a tiny bit knocked, it stayed intact,” said Hernandez, who emceed the event for the second year in a row. “Another team put their pumpkin inside a pyramid of large bouncy balls, similar to the Mars Exploration lander. That one also stayed almost perfectly intact.”


This year, a record 14 teams competed for prizes totaling $350. One by one, a member from each team wearing safety glasses escalated in a construction scissor lift with their pre-engineered contraptions to drop their designated seven-lb. pumpkin.  



An SDSU student dressed in a pumpkin costume shows off a gourd inside the courtyard at Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union for the 6th Annual College of Engineering Pumpkin Drop. (Audrey Chuakay/SDSU) 



Three student judges score each drop on three categories: team spirit, pumpkin survival and engineering ingenuity. One of the judges, executive vice president of the College of Engineering Student Council Zack Skinner, said the event is important to build community in the college.


“This gives hands-on experience to engineering students at SDSU while building community among those students,” said Skinner. “This is also the type of event that many students choose to attend SDSU for so this is important to build the reputation of our school as a whole. I hope it continues far into the future.”


The Pumpkin Drop also serves as a fundraiser for Aztecs Rock Hunger. Pumpkin remains are composted in SDSU’s garden. 


After lots of exciting drops, a team of civil engineers and one mechanical engineer from SDSU’s chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) was named the winner.


Led by senior Elizabeth Mehlhorn, the team also consisted of Taylor GreenEmma Raymer, Paul Luke RamosEric WeldonDustin BuiJohn Flores, and Diego Tres. With only three cardboard boxes, PVC pipes, tape, and leftover bubble wrap from another team’s entry, the team swayed the judges with their resourceful materials and unharmed pumpkin. 


“Emma is an art minor, so she even painted the pumpkin,” said Mehlhorn. “The judges loved the face painted on it, especially since it was still perfect after a 30-foot drop.” 


The team plans to split the grand prize money on a trip to Korean BBQ, but the experience is a treat in itself. 


“The Pumpkin Drop allows students to come together and use their ingenuity to develop some amazing pumpkin-saving devices,” said Hernandez. “It highlights engineering in the best way possible and allows a window for other colleges to see what the College of Engineering can do.”



Elizabeth Mehlhorn (left), Dustin Bui, Taylor Green, Eric Weldon, Paul Luke Ramos, Tito Hernandez, Emma Raymer, and Diego Tres (bottom row). (Photo courtesy of John Flores)