The Big Table: This Year’s Engineering April Fools Prank

Courtesy to Abigail Peters

Walking around Swarthmore’s campus on April Fools, you may notice some objects are amiss. This is likely due to the annual engineering April Fools prank held by students. The prank is generally a satirical commentary about some aspect of campus, such as last year, where the new dining center was turned into an airport. This year, the prank was organized by a committee of five students: Andrew Narain ’26, Bonji Onuma ’26, Abigail Peters ’26, Jamie Pickar ’26, and Zoe Sperduto ’26. They were helped by a larger group of students to bring the prank to life. 

The prank was inspired by the existing iconic big chair created by Jake Beckman ’04, which has been a staple of Parrish Beach since it was installed. They wanted to make a “big table” to match the big chair. On it, they put a laptop and a to-scale-sized can of La Croix seltzer.  

“We made a laptop with some personalized stickers and a home screen that has a lot of little easter eggs with Swarthmore and Swarthmore engineering related jokes. We can’t acknowledge this prank without acknowledging the founder of the big chair, Jake Beckman, who is an art major that made other big art installations around campus,” Sperduto said. “We tried to mimic that because we thought it was a great way of building campus spirit.”

This year’s organizing worked differently than previous years, as the new leadership sought to build a stronger community. 

Onuma reflected on his past experience, “Last year was fun, but it was also super stressful because most people did not know what was going on. It was like two people who kind of had an idea but everyone else was lost. This year, it was a lot more concrete. Before, there was no engineering community. There were different grades who were kind of engineering friends, but we didn’t have an engineering collective. It was scattered and broken.” 

Planning took up much of the process. A new aspect of the prank this year was that ideas were thought of during the summer break before the school year even started. 

“Last summer, I had a friend who would come into my lab and we would talk about the prank really early,” Peters said. “And then, we had our first true meeting to start planning with the greater community in January.” 

The group convened their first official meeting in January to consider and vote on a plan. 

“Something we were very clear about from the start is that we didn’t want to decorate something,  because decorating is a lot of effort for something that, in the end, doesn’t always look that impressive,” Sperduto said. 

There were many components that the group had to work with, including communicating and coordinating properly. 

“We were meeting right after winter break,” Narain said. “We had weekly lunch meetings — we wanted to very clearly lay out what we were doing as administrators. We talked to the grounds and the engineering department and ordered parts.”

The group also held open meetings to include interested students in the design process and open-build sessions the week leading up to the installment. This project was also uniquely challenging because of the scale of the project which involved heavier, but not more structurally sound, materials. 

Even with delays and other concerns, the team pulled through and finished earlier than expected. Much of the work was on completing the big table, which was completed 48 hours before it needed to be set up, making the night leading up to the prank more enjoyable.

“It was this crazy fun assembly of putting every last minute thing together, finalizing the project, and showing it to the people who were going to help move [the prank to Parrish Beach] later,” Onuma explained. 

As the main project was completed, the team came up with a last-minute mini project of placing smaller tables around campus to encourage excitement about the “big table.”

“The night of [the prank] had great energy, great turnout, had a whole armada of people who walked all the components out onto Parrish beach, it was just a very celebratory environment,” Pickar said. 

Onuma added, “It was just really fun because it was nighttime and we had pizza with cookies. And then it was just crazily running around because you’re high on the adrenaline of installing it.” 

The prank was not just a short-lived exhibition. Going forward, the laptop will continue to live on in the engineering lounge at Singer. 

Reflecting on the project, students appreciated the opportunity to work on it.

“I really love design projects. I think that as a program, we do not do enough of them. I just think that it is a very cool community exercise to come together as a group of students; not just as people working on their individual assignments, but to make something that’s just for fun for the community, for vibes, and to get people laughing.” Pickar explained.  

Peters expressed a similar sentiment. “I really like being able to show the greater Swarthmore community that this is something that’s cool. And that we’re not just kids who lock ourselves in rooms and do problem sets all day.” 

Narain also appreciated the educational opportunity that the prank offers for prospective engineering majors. 

“When I was new to the engineering major, the prank was really important to me as it was a real life application and people were very kind. I feel like I learned a lot about engineering through doing it,” Narain said. “I wanted to kind of replicate that process this year, get freshmen excited about the major, and provide opportunities to apply what you’re learning and build morale in the general engineering cohort.”

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