Eggs fell from the top of Caltech Hall one by one—some plummeting downward inside cardboard boxes with protective padding, others dangling below drifting parachutes—as an audience of admitted students 144 feet below cheered each drop.
The Egg Drop Competition, organized by the Undergraduate Admissions Office, was one of the final events of Discover Caltech (DiscoTech), a multiday program for admitted undergraduate students to get to know Caltech. From Wednesday, April 19, to Friday, April 21, 230 students and nearly 300 of their family members attended open houses on campus with the academic divisions, lectures, lab tours, residential house activities, JPL demonstrations, and more.
Prior to DiscoTech, the "ecosySTEMs" pre-program on Tuesday, April 18, welcomed 115 admitted students from historically underrepresented communities in STEM to campus for a special one-day introduction to Caltech and its support systems.
At ecosySTEMs, alumnus Brice Nzeukou (BS '13) delivered a keynote address, "Six Hacks to Make the Most of Your Caltech Experience." Nzeukou spoke candidly about his time as one of the few Black undergraduates at Caltech 10 years ago and encouraged students to lean on Caltech's support systems. "You are all here because you have what it takes to succeed," he emphasized. "Caltech will open doors for you that no other institution can."
At the welcome ceremony for DiscoTech on Wednesday, April 19, Ashley Pallie, Caltech's director of undergraduate admissions, shared statistics about the admitted class of 2027 and left students with a challenge: "When it gets hard, congratulations. It's meant to be. You can't change the world walking the easy path. But I can show you that if you choose Caltech, you'll work on science that has the ability to revolutionize the world."
Throughout the program, students were encouraged to "collect data" about their experience to help decide if Caltech is the right choice for them. Some students at DiscoTech had already committed to attending Caltech, including Jay Xu from Vancouver, Canada.
"I chose Caltech because of the small size. Everyone knows each other, and it's easy to get research opportunities," said Xu at an open house for GALCIT (Graduate Aerospace Laboratories at the California Institute of Technology) and CAST (Center for Autonomous Systems and Technologies). Xu said that DiscoTech had still been a great learning experience. "Caltech is a lot different than what I was expecting. I thought everyone here was going to be way nerdier, but the people here are very social, and everyone's so nice. I just feel so happy to be here."
Logan Smith-Perkins, from Lorton, Virginia, had not committed to Caltech yet but said that DiscoTech had helped him come to a decision. "I already had high expectations, and it's just gone even higher," said Smith-Perkins at the GALCIT/CAST open house. "Caltech is the top of my list."
Why Caltech? "The people," said Smith-Perkins. "I think the people here are some of the smartest, the best out there. DiscoTech has really inspired me to come here."
Priscila Marquez, a QuestBridge Scholar, already committed to Caltech in December through the National College Match program.
"Everything that everyone has been telling me about Caltech holds true," said Marquez at DiscoTech. "There are a lot of opportunities here. There are so many things to do that you'll find your interests, and you'll always get a shot to try something."
At DiscoTech, students explored research and academic opportunities through a research symposium, lab and research institute open houses, and lectures with prize-winning faculty. They had a glimpse into Caltech's social life through DiscoTech's club fair, residential house activities, and social mixers. Admitted students also experienced Caltech's house culture firsthand, as they stayed overnight with student hosts in various houses and dorms.
After a packed slate of events, students and their families celebrated the end of DiscoTech on Friday, April 21, with the Egg Drop Competition. Teams of admitted students had one hour to build contraptions with recycled materials to protect their eggs from a nine-story fall. Out of 15 teams, five eggs survived intact, including one egg from the Admissions staff team. The winning team with the most points (after review by two faculty judges) was rewarded with custom Caltech jackets designed by Jared Howard, assistant director of undergraduate admissions.
How do students decide if Caltech is the right choice for them? DiscoTech is designed to expose admitted students to the reality of life at Caltech, so that they can make an informed, intentional decision.
"We want students to discover what Caltech really is," says Nicolas Lee, assistant director of undergraduate admissions and DiscoTech coordinator. "Caltech is not the place for everyone. It is a unique institution that pushes students to their limits so they can be the brightest scientific minds in the world."
Admitted students have until May 1 to report their enrollment decision in the Beaver Breakroom application portal.