Pumpkin explosion: a chemistry club tradition

Student Writer

On October 19, outside of McKee Hall, the chemistry club exploded several pumpkins and a gourd in an annual celebration of fall. 

Each pumpkin was carved with a fall or Halloween design. The chemical combustion popped each design from the main body of the pumpkin onto the lawn. 

The combustion reaction was created through a mixture of water, hydrogen peroxide, yeast and calcium carbide. A spark from an electrical device was the final catalyst in this pumpkin experiment, enabling the reaction. 

“Pumpkin Explosion is an event that happens every single year,” said Sydney Hessom, president of the chemistry club. “I wanted to carry on the tradition and […] we tried to make it a little more spectacular this year.” 

The first two pumpkins moved minimally when the electrical device was activated. Some adjustments to the chemical formula led to larger explosions. In particular, the gourd was completely destroyed. A few pumpkins popped out their carvings as intended, but several blew shrapnel onto the audience as their tops flew sky-high. 

The response of the bystanders was overwhelmingly positive, as can be heard in the accompanying video. Some clips have been altered to be viewed in slow motion.