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Gourds go long: WVU Pumpkin Drop a smashing success

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Colin Silvas.

Or it was.

“Yeah, tell me about it,” he lamented Friday morning at the base of the Engineering Sciences Building on WVU’s Evansdale campus.

“We’re pie.”

Colin is a junior at Yough High School, in Hermine, Pa., just east of Pittsburgh.

He and a group of classmates from his school made up the 250 teams from across West Virginia and Pennsylvania that came to campus for a Halloween staple that was reanimated after a two-year hiatus, due to COVID.

Another team from North Carolina made the pumpkin pilgrimage for the day.

WVU’s Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources is the annual host of the event known simply as, “The Pumpkin Drop.”

A drop, it is.

Eleven stories, from the top of the building, to the turf below.

The event blends serious engineering principles with the fun of gravity defying gourds.

Gravity defying gourds, hopefully.

Teams assembled protective cases for the pumpkins, which weren’t to be hollowed-out or touched in any way.

There are strict requirements for those cases, too – “strict,” in this case, translating to, “No Styrofoam.”

With all that out of the way Friday, the gourds made their leap.

Surviving intact is critical for the competition, and 16 pumpkins in the field did live to tell about it.

But surviving, while also touching down closest to a prescribed target, meant cash prizes.

Teams from Morgantown traditionally do well in the event, and, like a ghost scooting through a wall, that’s what happened Friday.

Homeschool Team 15 from Morgantown took the $100 first place, when their gourd touched down just two feet six inches from the target.

Mountaineer Middle School’s Team 29 from the University City brought its in at four feet, one inch from the target, netting $50 for second place.

Team 258 from Berkeley Springs High in journeyed from the Eastern Panhandle to set its pumpkin within four feet, eight inches from the target. That was $25 and third place.

Proceeds from the event went to Morgantown’s Ronald McDonald House.

“It was amazing to see their excitement and enthusiasm,” Scott Wayne said. He’s a WVU associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and helped organize the event.

Silva’s teammate Jake McCullen, who wants to be a computer engineer, said he can’t wait to come back for a Prodigal Pumpkin run next year.

“We’re gonna work on balances and counter-balances,” he said, pushing his Ray-Bans – or, his “pumpkin- drop shades,” as he referred to them – off his nose.

“We went upside down and that caused our parachute to fail,” he said.

“If you don’t have a parachute, you don’t have a chance.”