Celebrating Pi Day

Amanda Carlin and members of the Tau Beta Pi honor society at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology write pi until the chalk runs out.
Amanda Carlin and members of the Tau Beta Pi honor society at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology write pi until the chalk runs out.

In the early morning hours of Friday, March 13, the students of Rose-Hulman woke up to a chalk parade of numbers winding through campus. It was the late-night work of Amanda Carlin and the Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society in preparation for Pi Day.

Celebrated on March 14, Pi Day has, in recent decades, become a rallying day for math enthusiasts the world over. There is no prescription for how one celebrates, but for many it includes eating pie, solving math problems, and reciting as many digits as possible. This year was an especially auspicious year for Pi Day—the only one in a century that included pi out to 10 digits: 3.141592653 (3/14/15 9:26:53).

At MIT, prospective students for the 2019 class received their admissions decisions at 9:26 am. In Princeton, NJ, the town celebrated with pie eating contests, music, and an Albert Einstein look-alike contest (the famed math whiz was born on March 14 in Germany and died in Princeton in 1955).

Every year at Rose-Hulman, Tau Beta Pi students burn the midnight oil to decorate campus with as many pi digits as possible, commemorating a former classmate who spent a full 24 hours writing the irrational number around campus 10 years ago.

“The first time you’re here for Pi Day, these numbers just appear [across campus], it’s amazing,” said Carlin, a junior in chemical engineering and chemistry who now belongs to the honor society and carries on the tradition.

“Our goal was 3,141 digits to coordinate with pi,” Carlin said. “I think we got to about 3,000. We wrote until we ran out of space.”

Along with the writing of pi, the students also held a charity “Pie-a-Prof” event on March 13. One professor from each department volunteered to have pie thrown at them to raise money for the Terre Haute Children’s Museum, which features interactive exhibits on science and technology – several of which were created by Rose-Hulman students.

The event is a popular one among students and professors alike. Carlin said that the departments get competitive to see who can raise the most money and, “who wouldn’t want to pie their professor?”

For more information on how to different places celebrate Pi Day, go here. Click here to see how NASA uses pi at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and an infographic with fun JPL pi puzzles.

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