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Digital Exhibits: Ditch Day: Caltech’s Zany Brainy Olympics

Ditch Day: Caltech’s Zany Brainy Olympics

Descending from Firestone with a motorbike

Visitors to Caltech are usually struck by the quiet of its campus; if they chance on the right day of the year, though, they will witness the most unusual scenes: students wrestling with dismantled cars, climbing buildings, hammering doors, and drilling through concrete.

On "Ditch Day", toward the end of Spring Term, all Seniors ditch their classes and disappear from campus (Seniors found on campus are often tied to a tree). They leave their dormitory rooms locked with clever, painstakingly wrought Rube Goldberg-style puzzles ("stacks") that their underclassmates must solve to enter the rooms. It’s a battle of brains: high-tech devices and cerebral procedures. There are three types of stacks, requiring different approaches to the final break-in: brute force, finesse, or honor (the room is left open but cannot be entered until a puzzle is solved). Inside the rooms are bribes; if the underclassmen are not satisfied, they may booby-trap the lodgings, and it is the Seniors’ turn to use their wits. The exact date of Ditch Day is kept secret until the very last moment, but when it is on, everybody is sure to notice! -EP

Here is a gallery of candid Ditch Day moments from our collection. Posted 5-25-2018