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Connellsville students participating in WVU pumpkin drop

| Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 6:15 p.m.
Marilyn Forbes | For the Daily Courier
Working to affix the head onto the ram named Dodge is Nathan Bungard, 14, of Mt. Pleasant and Cody Nicholson, 16, of Normalville.
Marilyn Forbes | For the Daily Courier
Gluing on the feathers to her team's duck is Hannah Surgent, 17, of Champion.

Proving that gravity does indeed work, students from all over southwestern Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia will be trying out their creations in Friday's annual “Pumpkin Drop,” sponsored yearly by the Engineering Department of West Virginia University.

Teams from Connellsville Area High School and Connellsville Junior High will make the trip to West Virginia, taking with them the creations they designed and built around pumpkins. Their intent is to drop their inventions from the 11-story engineering building, and hope that they land unbroken in the target area.

Connellsville gifted teacher Justin Guest will be taking five teams to the competition. Each of his five classes make up one team.

“Each team has anywhere from eight to 12 students,” Guest said. “They work on it together to see what they can come up with that they feel is the best way to keep the pumpkin intact.”

Students can use materials that are eco-friendly and are not permitted to use items such as liquids, glass, wood, PVC piping or Styrofoam packing peanuts.

Guest has been taking his students to the event for many years. For the first time, the project has a theme.

“One of the students suggested farm animals and I thought that it was a good idea,” Guest said. “It adds a little more fun and creativity to the project. We have a ram, a duck, a pig, a cow and a horse.”

“If they land unbroken, then they will then measure them to see who is closest to the target,” Guest said.

Guest said while the students include him in the design options they create, he is not involved with the making of the pumpkin containers.

“We talk about their ideas and what they want to do, but then I let them go at it,” Guest said.

“This is really a fun way to incorporate engineering into everyday life,” said student Cody Nicholson, 16, of Normalville. Nicholson said his team worked on their ram named Dodge for more than three weeks. “We tried some different ideas and hopefully it (the pumpkin) will survive.”

Student Hannah Surgent, 17, of Champion will be attending the pumpkin drop for the sixth time. Her team will be taking a duck that is covered in paper mache and feathers.

The teams paid a $10 entry fee. All proceeds are donated to the Ronald McDonald House.

“It's for a good cause and it's a lot of fun,” Guest said. “Everyone is so happy just if their pumpkin survives.”

Marilyn Forbes is a contributing writer.

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