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Scav Hunt!

The 2013 (or 2014, depending on who you ask; there were apparently some issues with the 2013 list causing YOLOCALYPSE) University of Chicago Scavenger hunt is either in full swing or panic mode (again, depending on who you ask). And this is something that everyone should know about.

Here’s a summary for those of you who didn’t choose which college to go to based on criteria like “Where will I have the chance to participate in the world’s largest scavenger hunt?”, or “Which schools have the most self-effacing advertising material?” or even more sensible concerns like “Which top-tier university will understand my violent reaction to any interaction with the physical world (i.e. sports or engineering?)” or “Which applications have the most off-the-wall essay questions?”

The University of Chicago Scavenger Hunt (mostly referred to as Scav Hunt, or Scav) is the biggest scavenger hunt in the world. Or, more precisely, the “biggest scavenger hunt in the world”, according to Guinness, was an item in last year’s Scav Hunt. Scav happens every year, in the week leading up to mother’s day. The stated purpose is to help Chicago students achieve enlightenment through microcosms of utter chaos. (Seriously, it’s in the bylaws.) There are generally about 300 items, a road trip (this year to New Orleans!), a party on the quads, and countless absurd and wonderful things to perform, make, fake believably, or at least make a judge laugh about. My favorite item I had anything to do with: a tie between a half-pony half-monkey monster and using a katamari to clean up the team area after judgement. (I got rolled up, because I am very small.) (My teammates were singing the song.) (My least favorite: plastinate a tilapia.) (SOMETIMES THE SMELL STILL HAUNTS ME.) In my opinion, the item on this year’s list with the most potential for awesome is making UFOs on the quad (bonus points for stumping your own teammates). Probably the most famous scav item, though, is the following:

A breeder reactor built in a shed, and the boy scout badge to prove credit was given where boy scout credit was due. (500 points).

It was completed, and thus Scav 1999 went down in history as at least the second time there was a sustained nuclear reaction in an uncontrolled environment on the University of Chicago’s campus. (The first time, of course, involved Enrico Fermi and a squash court.)

If you want to know more, check out the website! Read this year’s list! Read this year’s other list! Read prior years’ lists!

And, because I couldn’t let another Scav pass by without doing SOMETHING crazy, here’s a photo of me helping make a pinata. That explodes on cue. (My friend Ryo did the exploding, I was in charge of pinata-fying it.) It was a triumph, and the videos might be publicly posted after judgement.

You can hardly tell it's made of metal and duct tape! And it didn't spontaneously ignite on detonation, either!
You can hardly tell it’s made of metal and duct tape! And it didn’t spontaneously ignite on detonation, either! A triumph!

Elizabeth Finn

Elizabeth is a geneticist working for a shady government agency and therefore obliged to inform you that all of the views presented in her posts are her own, and not official statements in any capacity. In her free time, she is an aerialist, a dancer, a clothing designer, and an author. You can find her on tumblr at, on twitter at @lysine_rich, and also on facebook or google+.

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  1. Ugh. I hated the uchicago scav hunt. There were undergrads all over campus running around building and doing strange things that generally end up in my way when I’m just trying to study and get to class and stuff. Also, get off my lawn!

  2. I understand that Scav can be disruptive. When I lived off campus it was easier to get away, and I definitely appreciated that. (When I lived on campus, people would sometimes wander into my room late at night because Scav, and always do loud things outside my window at all hours.) I guess you could be happy that it’s only four days a year, instead of periodically, at random intervals, as I imagine it is in other colleges with a history/tradition/culture of wacky hijinks? On the other hand, maybe Scav is worse because there’s not even a pretense of doing anything secretly. In any case, I think most items are best done with only enthusiastic participants, so if folks were really getting in your way then clearly they were doing it wrong. And if I was ever one of those crazy undergrads doing strange things that ended up in your way, I apologize.

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