Help Shape the Future of Space Exploration

Join The Planetary Society Now  arrow.png

Join our eNewsletter for updates & action alerts

    Please leave this field empty

Headshot of Bruce Betts

Hijinks and Shenanigans at Caltech Ditch Day

Posted by Bruce Betts

24-05-2012 18:47 CDT

Topics: fun

When I heard today was the annual Caltech ditch day, I had to venture across Pasadena to the Caltech campus to check it out. I did my graduate work at Caltech, and it was always an entertaining thing to wander the campus on ditch day. I dragged Planetary Society COO Jennifer Vaughn with me since she had never observed this strange and amusing ritual before.  We saw undergrads paddling make shift rafts in the library reflecting pool while tennis balls were hurled at them, and a team of students staring at tens of keys hanging from a hallway ceiling pondering which was the right one, and a variety of other wackiness.

Rafts by Library at Caltech Ditch Day 2012

Bruce Betts

Rafts by Library at Caltech Ditch Day 2012
At Caltech Ditch Day 2012: students on make shift rafts assaulted by tennis balls on reflecting pool next to main library.

Ditch Day, as described on the Caltech web site: One day each spring, kept secret until the last minute, seniors ditch their classes and vanish from campus, leaving behind complex, imaginative scavenger hunts, mazes, puzzles, and other challenges that are carefully planned out to occupy the underclassmen—preventing them from wreaking havoc in the seniors' rooms. 

One group of students we walked by was looking inside a large wooden box like structure, staring, joking, and thinking.  When we reached the open side of the box and peaked in, what was inside but...numbers, lots and lots of numbers.  Elsewhere, a giant canvas chessboard with huge cardboard pieces sat empty, a reminder of earlier tomfoolery.  We saw one person who clearly went with this set wearing a chess pieces sweatshirt...a sweatshirt with lots of chess pieces--actual chess pieces-- on it.

Caltech Ditch Day Keys Hang from Ceiling
Caltech Ditch Day Keys Hang from Ceiling
At Caltech Ditch Day 2012: students work on solving a challenge. Note the tens of keys hanging from the ceiling. Also, note the chess piece sweatshirt.

The challenges represent either physical, intellectual, or other kinds of figurative "locks" to the seniors rooms.  At Caltech, the challenges are known as stacks.

Caltech Ditch Day Sign

Bruce Betts

Caltech Ditch Day Sign
At Caltech Ditch Day 2012: sign posted on door to main library. All things yield to ditch day.

This is geekiness/nerdliness as an art form. I in no way mean that critically.  These students with their deranged, finely-honed puzzle solving skills will make some of the technological and scientific breakthroughs of the future.  I like that.  I like that very much.

You can check out more pictures of Ditch Day on this Caltech images page.

See other posts from May 2012


Or read more blog entries about: fun


bware: 05/25/2012 11:55 CDT

HEY HEY!!! A school that knows how to have some fun also!

Leave a Comment:

You must be logged in to submit a comment. Log in now.
Facebook Twitter Email RSS AddThis

Blog Search


Advocate for Space!

Fifteen years ago, Society members and passionate space advocates like you helped save the Pluto mission. Now we can do the same for missions to Europa and Mars.

Join over 27,600 people who have completed their petition and consider a donation to support advocacy efforts.

Sign Our Petition

Featured Images

LightSail-B on the bench
Blue Origin New Shepard after first landing
New Shepard test flight and booster landing
Suni Williams and Doug Hurley in Crew Dragon
More Images

Featured Video

MISSIONS: Dawn In The Asteroid Belt With Marc Rayman

Watch Now

Space in Images

Pretty pictures and
awe-inspiring science.

See More

Selfies to Space!

Take flight with a selfie on LightSail™ in 2016!

Send a Selfie Now

Connect With Us

Facebook! Twitter! Google+ and more…
Continue the conversation with our online community!