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Quest Through Amsaria

When I mentioned in my previous post that for the underclassmen stackees, Ditch Day began at 7:45 a.m. on May 26, 2017, I left out the other half of the story: that for the senior stackers, Ditch Day began a long time ago. Technically, my friend Anjali and I knew we wanted to do an original theme sometime in our junior year. By the beginning of winter break, we had assembled our team, and by the beginning of third term this year, preparations were already on their way.

A quick refresher of the story/activities covered in the last post which will make it less confusing as I talk about the logistics that went behind making each of them:

1st hour: puzzles in Ruddock involving breaking into seniors’ rooms, assemble into a prophecy at the end (8-9 a.m.)

Jousting: balloon sword making and tournament to prove valor (9:05-9:40 a.m.)

Trolls under the bridge: Zoombini-style math game of only being allowed to cross one of two bridges if your outfit fell into a specific category (9:45-10:05 a.m.)

Town market murder mystery: find the guilty merchant who killed the princess and execute them for justice (10:10-10:55 a.m.)

Magical art project: something to protect against future instabilities of time-traveling portals and dragons (11-11:50 a.m.)

Portal: build a life-size and stable-standing portal to time travel through (11:55 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.)

Town market 2: choose the right person (12:20-12:25 p.m.)

Finale: fight a dragon (12:30-1 p.m.)

The first station I had conceived was the portal section. My initial idea had been to have the stackees build a portal out of Lego-shaped frozen blocks of jello. It would be tremendously pretty, not to mention add the exciting component of time as the ice slowly melted into the equation. For this express purpose I bought 5 boxes of jello mix from Vons and ordered some Lego molds online. When the molds arrived, I tested them using different juices from open kitchen:

The juice ice cubes turned out in beautiful colors, but there were several problems. First, ice molds can only shape one side of the Lego, but in order to build anything useful with a Lego you need both the indentations and the protrusions. I had Mugdha attempt to make a clay mold of the models so I could use them as a stamp to make double-sided Legos; the clay failed dramatically to hold the shape without folding in on itself or having air bubbles. Another issue was that I hadn’t accounted for the non-zero thickness of the silicon mold itself, which would make the indented holes of the Legos of larger diameter than the protrusions–a poor fit that would definitely not hold up in the air. Yet another problem I ran into was the breaking off of the little ice protrusions. Plain water ice cubes were fine; sugared juice or jello Lego ice cubes would not stay in one piece. Eventually, when it became a pain in the rear to heat up exactly the right amount of water twice a day to make the jello ice, I gave up on the idea of this happening. We would find another material for the arch.

Eric was put in charge of figuring out how to make balloon swords, and ordering the balloon and pump. Mugdha and Bolton wrote the murder mystery, with memorable characters such as Bob the grapefruit farmer; a love triangle between the farmer’s daughter, a Jewish bard, and a Christian knight; Heloise, the vampire-hunting nun; Turpin the crusading archbishop who wins extra points for persuading the knight to join his army (borrowed straight from the Medieval Romance class Bolton and I were in); Og the village idiot; and Arthur the stable boy. Meanwhile, Anjali worked on various puzzles for the 1st hour and the costumes–felt hats and fur belts, which careful variations in color for the Troll game.

It is a Caltech tradition for each stack to also have a themed T-shirt. Lucky for us, Caltech has a silk-screening room that we can use. Mugdha was in charge of ordering the shirts and making the screens after I drew the designs for the front and back of the shirt.

Here’s the front of the shirt:


Anjali, Mugdha, Eric (and I) screening the shirts:

How they turned out!

Next up: painting set pieces for the murder mystery and painting the wallboard mural for the stack.

Till next time!


Anita Chen

Anita is a senior majoring in chemistry and minoring in English. Born in the island nation of Taiwan, she braved the cold on the American East Coast for a year at the age of six before moving to San Diego, California. At Caltech, she is involved in the music program and the literary and visual arts magazines. She is also an upperclass counselor (UCC) in Ruddock House, one of the 8 dorms on campus, where she watches out for the mental health of her peers and every once in a while tries to stir up trouble and excitement for her hallmates. In her spare time, she tutors and TAs, writes poetry and prose, plays the violin, draws, paints, cooks, and climbs rocks. She is currently pursuing her senior thesis project under renowned professor of chemistry Harry B. Gray, and plans on attending graduate school next year.

Graduation year: 2017

Option: Chemistry

Minor: English

House Affiliation: Ruddock