A Tech Tradition– The Pumpkin Launch!

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October brings a lot of things to the life of a college student. Leaves start changing colors, weather starts getting colder, and the days start getting longer as the reprieve of winter break slowly inches nearer.  But Illinois Tech students have more to look forward to than receiving midterm grades and drinking pumpkin spice lattes—October also brings Pumpkin Launch to the IIT community!

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Pumpkin Lunch is one of the most looked-forward-to events that take place on IIT’s campus. Students across a variety of disciplines build great machines designed to hurl a pumpkin as far as possible across Illinois Tech’s Ed Glancy baseball field. Each year, teams compete to win awards for distance and accuracy, and this year, a fun new award was added for crowd favorite.

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Over 100 students worked toward launchers for this year’s competition, which is a part of IIT’s annual family weekend where students’ friends and families get a chance to engage in the spirit of the university. Many IIT students, staff, alumni, and other spectators come out to watch the event, but some looked forward to the blunders as much as they did the successful launchers. Some launchers catastrophically failed before completing their launches, and others occasionally fired a pumpkin backwards or even straight up into the air!

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This year’s launch was a ton of fun to watch and one of the most successful Pumpkin Launches yet! Nearly every launcher had successful launches; in previous years, several launchers only shot straight up or backwards, and some had difficulty launching at all.  It was really great to see the improvement that our teams of students had. This year’s launch also had some of the most impressive first-place winners ever as well. The winner for the distance competition, Long Shot, made by a small team of mechanical engineering students, shot their pumpkin over three hundred feet, almost over the outfield fence! The winner for the accuracy competition, Mach 1, a team made up of students on the Illinois Tech Robotics team, had a launch accuracy of over 99%, where each new launch hit the remains of the pumpkin before it. Next year will surely be more impressive as these students continue to hone their skills! Pumpkin launch remains my favorite event of the fall semester at Illinois Tech.

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Pumpkin Launch is a great fun event to kick off autumn at Illinois Tech, and everyone who attends the event has a blast! Students competing in the event get a chance to work with their fellow students and get a chance to apply what they’re learning in class to an exciting hands-on project. Spectators of the event get to observe impressive feats of engineering constructed by IIT students, and in addition to the pumpkin carnage, Pumpkin Launch always includes a few side attractions such as pumpkin carving and fun fall-themed food. Pumpkin Launch is just one of the many ways that Illinois Tech offers a unique collegiate experience to students.

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-Kori Bowns

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