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West Valley City Journal

Smashing pumpkins at Armstrong Academy

Dec 04, 2022 11:41AM ● By Darrell Kirby

By Darrell Kirby | [email protected]

Take a typical kid and a pumpkin and most will tell you they like to see the big fruit smashed against a hard surface.

Fourth-graders at Neil Armstrong Academy in West Valley City got their wish on a November afternoon in the name of science and math.

In what has become an annual demonstration, pumpkins were dropped from various heights at the STEM elementary school in the Granite School District to demonstrate the relationship between energy and speed.

With students chanting, “Drop it, drop it, drop it,” the first pumpkin was let go from the top of a 10-foot ladder. The second pumpkin met its demise from 20 feet. Pumpkin number three was unleashed from the 33-foot-high school roof. And for the first time, a fourth pumpkin was brought into the experiment and dropped from a West Valley City Fire Department ladder truck extended 80 feet in the air. 

The 10-foot drop was clocked by a radar gun at 12 mph when it met the concrete playground. The 20-footer reached a speed of nearly 20 mph. From 33 feet, the pumpkin hit at 27 mph. At 80 feet, the pumpkin crashed at 54 mph.

“One of our goals here at Armstrong is to inspire kids through science, to make things as exciting and engaging as possible,” said fourth-grade teacher David Pendleton.

Besides the velocity, Pendleton said the “splat radius,” a scientific term coined by someone at Armstrong Academy, was also calculated. That’s the farthest distance a piece of the pumpkin (skin, flesh, pulp, or seeds) lands from the point of impact. The faster the descent, the greater the splat radius.

The pumpkins were harvested and drafted for service from the school garden.

“I used to think pie was the best thing you could do with pumpkins,” quipped Armstrong principal John Paul Sorensen.