Kids fall for science open house at Indiana University

Annual event lets children explore how things work in hands-on science, math rooms

  • Oct. 28, 2013

By Abby Tonsing

Indiana University high energy physics graduate student Jon Zarling held a pumpkin out of a window at Swain Hall. After a large crowd counted down from five, Zarling let go of the pumpkin, which made a four-story drop and shattered on a blue tarp below.

Saturday morning’s pumpkin drop wasn’t an exercise in Halloween-themed vandalism.

It served as a tutorial about acceleration due to gravity. And it was just one of dozens of science and math lessons available to scholars of all ages at an open house for IU’s science departments, including the departments of chemistry, physics and astronomy, geological sciences and mathematics.

“Let’s time it to see how accurate we were,” 12-year-old Benjamin Noble-Kuchera told a friend before the start of the pumpkin drop. Science open house participants were encouraged to guess how long it would take for four pumpkins to plummet to the ground.

Noble-Kuchera surmised it would take, three, maybe three and a half seconds for a pumpkin to fall four stories to the ground.

It took about two.

As Zarling prepared to simultaneously drop two pumpkins, one hollow and one solid, from the window fellow IU graduate student Jake Bennett asked the crowd to predict what might happen. Which pumpkin might hit the ground first?

Both pumpkins hit the ground at the same time.

Acceleration due to gravity is independent of the mass of an object, Bennett explained.

This was the second year for the pumpkin drop during the science open house.

“One of the biggest draws is always smashing things or breaking things apart. I think it was very effective,” Bennett said of the lesson about acceleration and gravity.

The tutorial stuck with young scientists after the drop of the fourth pumpkin of the morning. It was filled with candy.

 Editor's note: This story from The Bloomington Herald-Times is being published here as a courtesy for readers of IU in the News.