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Splat or no splat: Several pumpkins survive 40-foot drop

Chris Dorst
A pumpkin packaged by Sherman Junior High School students drops from the launch board at Appalachian Power Park on Thursday. The pumpkin, which plunged 40 feet to the ground, did not survive.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- On a rainy Thursday morning at Appalachian Power Park, Patrick Bayly lugged three trashcans, two tarps and a stuffed teddy bear to a registration booth.With his gear in tow, the senior at George Washington High School was ready to drop some pumpkins.Bayly, along with his 14-member team, had tested, perfected and finally settled on a pumpkin contraption called "Electric Cataclysm." It had only one purpose: to ensure the orange squash survived the 40-foot plunge to the ground intact. More than 1,000 elementary, middle and high school students from across West Virginia hauled their homemade pumpkin containers to the 13th annual Capital City Pumpkin Drop on Thursday.While students across the nation typically construct impact-resistant containers for their school's egg drop contests, West Virginia adds a seasonal twist to the perennial physics project, said Christina Johnson, an event coordinator.Students from 22 schools in six counties submitted a total of 96 pumpkin designs in a statewide competition hosted by Bridgemont Community and Technical College to improve their science and math skills.Emma Glasser, a sixth-grader at Mountaineer Montessori School, had a box-shaped pumpkin container painted like cowhide. Her pumpkin was cushioned inside by foam widgets, egg cartons, shock absorbent cups, and a makeshift parachute attached to the box."Oh no, this is not gonna work," Glasser shrieked as the judges pushed one of the school's five pumpkin submissions off the platform.Mountaineer Montessori School was the overall winner of the Pumpkin Drop, snagging the "Grand Slam" prize for an intact pumpkin that was the most on target. The team received a $150 cash prize. The engineering class from George Washington High School submitted three designs -- one included stuffing a pumpkin into an oversized teddy bear -- but their design baby was "Electric Cataclysm."The pumpkin in "Electric Cataclysm" was cradled in a neon web of taut exercise bands and bubble wrap inside an old trashcan. The final touch of the design: a parachute made of a vented tarp to help the trashcan fall straight down.The pumpkin designs could be no longer than 24 inches, and students were encouraged to use sustainable materials."We've got this," said Bayly, as the team's design was hauled up the 21 slippery steps of the yellow scaffolding to the drop area."Electric Cataclysm" survived the fall, but some of the other submissions were not as lucky."Any damage or cracks and it's out," said Kelly Joe Drey, one of the pumpkin inspectors who had 60 seconds to cut through the designs of foam, Styrofoam widgets and wood to see if a team's pumpkin made it through the drop.
William Linville, a junior at Scott High School, and Tommy Davis, a senior, came from Boone County to participate in the pumpkin event.Their pumpkin apparatus was a cardboard box with a foam core, Styrofoam, and woven cords for flexibility.Linville said the duo had only tested their pumpkin design from a five-foot platform -- to have a chance at a prize, their pumpkin had make it from eight times that height."I'm pretty confident about it," said Linville before the drop.Scott High School won first place for the high school category.This was the first year that Bridgemont Community and Technical College hosted the event at Appalachian Power Park. In the past, the Pumpkin Drop had been organized by the Education Alliance and students dropped pumpkins off the roof of the state Capitol.
 Pumpkin Drop winners
Overall "Grand Slam" winner: Mountaineer Montessori SchoolMost Creative design: Huntington High SchoolMost Sustainable: Mountaineer Montessori School High school winners:1st place: Scott High School2nd place: Greenbrier East High School3rd place: Sherman High School Middle school winners:1st place: South Charleston Middle School2nd place: Sherman Junior High School3rd place: Fayetteville High School (7th grade) Elementary school winners:1st place: Sherman Elementary School2nd place: New River Elementary Reach Amy Julia Harris at or 304-348-4814.    
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