Experience Spring Carnival

Carnegie Mellon's most beloved tradition

spring carnival | campus life

At Carnegie Mellon, students and alumni prefer to take advantage of the Pittsburgh sunshine and relax before the end of the year with the annual Spring Carnival and Reunion Weekend.

To most college students around the country, the warmth of spring signals a fast-approaching final exam week. At Carnegie Mellon, students and alumni prefer to take advantage of the Pittsburgh sunshine and relax before the end of the year with the annual Spring Carnival and Reunion Weekend. Spring Carnival is one of Carnegie Mellon’s oldest and most beloved traditions, dating back to 1920. Occurring in mid-April, Spring Carnival is the university’s largest event of the year and is entirely student-run by the Spring Carnival Committee.


Booth is one of the biggest showpieces of Spring Carnival and is held on Midway in the center of campus. Over twenty Greek and independent student organizations build and decorate multi-story structures for the community to experience.  After a full year of planning, students have less than a week to put up walls, construct staircases, wire electricity and paint decorations in their booth, passing numerous safety checks throughout the process. Booth is a great way for students of different skillsets to collaborate on one project and display their creativity for all to see!

Buggy, also known as Sweepstakes, is the second major tradition of Spring Carnival. Greek and independent organizations race small aerodynamic vehicles powered only by gravity and a team of five human pushers, who pass off the buggy in a relay. The vehicle itself is driven by a team member lying parallel to the ground. Students train year-round for Buggy, often waking up before the sun rises to practice in Schenley Park. The course is a winding 4,400-foot-long loop that includes uphill elements, sharp turns and downhill stretches where buggies have reached nearly forty miles per hour. Spectators from across the university cheer on student competitors in this elimination-style competition.

Playing to Carnegie Mellon’s strengths in autonomous driving, the Robotics Club and students in the School of Computer Science challenged themselves to a project called RoboBuggy, which aimed to create an autonomous buggy that could navigate the course without a driver. After two decades of development, RoboBuggy succeeded in reaching this goal in 2017 and now holds a yearly non-competitive spot on race day.

On a smaller scale than autonomous buggies, students also race tiny robots in a newer tradition called MoBot, which stands for “Mobile roBOTs”. Entering its twenty-fourth year, these robots compete on a slalom-like course on a paved campus sidewalk.

Every carnival requires an abundance of entertainment and the Carnegie Mellon Activities Board never disappoints. One of the most active organizations on campus, Activities Board helps coordinate the annual Spring Concert and Carnival comedian

Carnegie Mellon’s student-run theater program Scotch ‘n’ Soda always performs their biggest show of the year during Spring Carnival. This year, “Mamma Mia!” was the musical of choice. The organization serves as an outlet for creative work, improv comedy, sketch comedy, playwriting and directing. It’s a great way for students of all backgrounds and skill level to try something new or continue one of their high school passions, either on stage or behind the scenes!

New at this year’s Spring Carnival was The Old Mill, a traditional dark ride built inside one of the academic buildings. Constructed by Carnegie Mellon’s Theme Park Engineering Group, the human-powered wooden attraction transports riders back to Pittsburgh’s heyday during the peak of the steel industry. By integrating history, utilizing experience design and displaying engineering prowess in this year-long project, the Old Mill Ride is a testament to the dedication of Carnegie Mellon students and reflects the interdisciplinary culture of our community.

With over a hundred events, Carnegie Mellon’s Spring Carnival has something for everyone. Next spring, come watch our Kiltie Band perform, ride a rollercoaster, experience the Tartans Got Talent! talent show, go on classic festival rides or meet with university alumni. We can’t think of a better way to unwind after a year of hard work, proudly celebrate tradition and embrace the warm weather of summer ahead!

Photography by David Domalik