Even though students couldn’t touch one another with a thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot pole at this year’s department Christmas party (held Thursday, December 10th), it was virtually (get it?) the best party ever thrown!
On the same online platform in which students attended class lectures all semester, they congregated to relax, celebrate the upcoming holidays, and enjoy each other’s company. The event included a talent show, professor trivia contest, competitions, Jackbox games, and Among Us. Nearly seventy students, professors, and staff members attended.
“It was actually a lot more fun than I expected it to be over Zoom,” Masters student Sequoia Ploeg said.
The talent show - the first event - became an instant hit among attendees. Its digital format created a unique advantage: performers were not limited to stage-accessible talents. In addition to traditional performances, it included videos of performers figure skating, golfing, and cooking. Dr. Willie Harrison wowed the audience by mastering pull-ups on a salmon ladder, and Dr. Wood Chiang displayed a realistic charcoal drawing of the first moon landing.
“In the electrical engineering department, you don’t get to see the other side of students, so I think it’s cool that you get to see what people do outside of school,” senior Ethan Angerbauer said.
Although every talent received accolades in the chat bar, senior Kalliyan Lay took the top prize for her performance of an original “EE love song” on the ukulele. Seniors Gracie Richens and Christine Akagi tied for second place for their skills in golf and piano, respectively.
Next, attendees competed to see who best knew the faculty using a traditional and time-honored method: Kahoot. They identified who had sixteen siblings (Dr. Wirthlin), who had nine children (Dr. Mazzeo), and who raised the FBI’s suspicions as a teenager (Dr. Smalley - he was clean; don’t worry), and they tried to identify professors from their childhood pictures. Once again, Kalliyan Lay took home the grand prize, and senior Whitney Kinnison followed on her tail.
“It was a good reminder that [they] are people outside of engineers,” Ploeg said.
All the while, other competitions happened in the background (literally). Attendees took advantage of Zoom’s virtual background option to show off their creativity, with amusing results. Chad Beardall piloted the Millenium Falcon, Hunter Hinnen sat on the verge of a Dunder Mifflin-style confessional, and Dalan Cluff barely escaped a whooping from a shovel-wielding Santa. IT manager Jason Harvey took the prize, however, with a virtual seat in the department chairs’ office. Dr. Daniel Smalley followed close behind with his animated tribute to the apple that fell on Isaac Newton’s head and spiffy powdered wig.
Even though much of the party hardly resembled traditional Christmas festivities, one thing remained the same: the sweater competition. Clarissa Whitaker’s sweater vest and its host of jolly teddy bear embellishments took the prize.
Kristopher Ward won neither competition officially, but attendees named him crowd favorite for his action-packed Star Wars background and festive feline sweater.
As the main party drew to a close and participants scattered into breakout rooms for virtual games with smaller groups of people, a couple participants stayed after to thank Angerbauer for putting it together. Despite the unconventional format, the party did what parties should: bring people together and give them a good time.
“I think we’re going to do our family Christmas party this way,” advisor Janalyn Mergist said. “I’m inspired.”