Watermelon Drop at UCSD
© Igor Roshchin
June 4, 2004

WaterMelon Queen - IMGP0102 WaterMelon Queen - IMGP0103 Tossing - IMGP0104 Movie (~500kB) Splash - IMGP0107
Watermelon Queen - IMGP0102.jpg Watermelon Queen - IMGP0103.jpg Tossing - IMGP0104.jpg Movie (~500kB) Splash - IMGP0107.jpg

Event Description (from UCSD site)


By Jan Jennings

EVENT: 39th Annual Watermelon Drop at University of California, San Diego

The Revelle College tradition marks the end of the school year at UCSD. (Revelle graduation is June 13.) Amidst much fanfare, a “Watermelon Queen” chosen by the students will toss the watermelon from the top (7th floor) of Urey Hall – to the countdown by the crowd below. The goal is to break velocity/splat records. Hundreds of UCSD students gather to witness this annual ritual and students try to predict where the farthest piece will land.

DATE/TIME: 12:05 p.m., Friday, June 4, 2004

LOCATION: Optimal viewing is from the sidewalk in front of Urey Hall, Revelle Campus.

BACKGROUND: The Watermelon Drop (or splat or toss) originated with UCSD’s first undergraduate class in 1965. All Revelle freshmen took a physics class with professor Bob Swanson. As a physics problem, Swanson asked: “If a watermelon was dropped from a 7-story building, where would the farthest piece land?” and “What would be the velocity on impact of the watermelon?” Members of the class arranged the actual watermelon drop from Urey Hall, voted for a “Watermelon Queen” and the drop has been an annual challenge each year.

The best official record for the splat is 167 feet 4 inches set in 1974. Swanson again will be observing the drop.


Historical notes from UCSD Alumni web-site

One of UCSD’s oldest myths may have just splattered on the sidewalk outside Urey Hall. It’s the one about the professor inspiring the first Watermelon Drop with his final exam question on the velocity of a watermelon dropped from the seventh floor. It seems the history needs a little revision.

According to Professor Robert Swanson, who taught physics to that pioneer freshman class, the students first asked him to distribute a ballot for a Watermelon Queen. He inserted the ballot in the last page of his final. “I then wrote the entire exam with questions related to watermelons,” Swanson says, rewriting the cherished sequence of events. “ Not an easy task, since the subject matter was Electricity and Magnetism, not Mechanics.”

Regardless of which came first, the prof or the proof,
the freshmen of 1965 tossed the watermelon off the building,
measured the distance of the splat and have been doing it ever since. The annual Watermelon Drop, which takes place in what is now Revelle College, has become a wild pre-summer event. The Watermelon Queen Pageant is held the night before to choose the lucky man who will have the honor of dropping the melon.

The day of the drop is Friday of 10th week this quarter. The best official record is 30 years old when, in 1974, pieces were found 167 feet 4 inches from the impact. Even though the myth isn’t completely accurate, the tradition will undoubtedly continue to flourish.

As Swanson says, “The myth is probably better than reality, as is so often the case.”