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We Made Uranium!

And Other True Stories from the University of Chicago’s Extraordinary Scavenger Hunt

We Made Uranium!

And Other True Stories from the University of Chicago’s Extraordinary Scavenger Hunt

Item #176: A fire drill. No, not an exercise in which occupants of a building practice leaving the building safely. A drill which safely emits a bit of fire, the approximate shape and size of a drill bit.
Item #74: Enter a lecture class in street clothes. Receive loud phone call. Shout “I NEED TO GO, THE CITY NEEDS ME!” Remove street clothes to reveal superhero apparel. Run out for the good of the land.
Item #293: Hypnotizing a chicken seems easy, but if the Wikipedia article on the practice is to be believed, debate on the optimal method is heated. Do some trials on a real chicken and submit a report . . . for science of course.
Item #234: A walking, working, people-powered but preferably wind-powered Strandbeest.
Item #188: Fattest cat. Points per pound.
The University of Chicago’s annual Scavenger Hunt (or “Scav”) is one of the most storied college traditions in America. Every year, teams of hundreds of competitors scramble over four days to complete roughly 350 challenges. The tasks range from moments of silliness to 1,000-mile road trips, and they call on participants to fully embrace the absurd. For students it is a rite of passage, and for the surrounding community it is a chance to glimpse the lighter side of a notoriously serious university.

We Made Uranium! shares the stories behind Scav, told by participants and judges from the hunt’s more than thirty-year history. The twenty-three essays range from the shockingly successful (a genuine, if minuscule, nuclear reaction created in a dorm room) to the endearing failures (it’s hard to build a carwash for a train), and all the chicken hypnotisms and permanent tattoos in between. Taken together, they show how a scavenger hunt once meant for blowing off steam before finals has grown into one of the most outrageous annual traditions at any university. The tales told here are absurd, uplifting, hilarious, and thought-provoking—and they are all one hundred percent true.

248 pages | 10 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2018

Chicago and Illinois

Education: Higher Education

History: History of Ideas

Sociology: Social Psychology--Small Groups


“Scav, as it is known on campus, is the college’s Rose Bowl: a mash-up of the Intel Science Talent Search, fraternity hazing, a pep rally, installation art, reality TV, and a 4-H fair.”

New Yorker

Table of Contents


Item 256, 2007: Simon’s a Computer, Simon Has a Brain
Sarah Rosenshine

Item 24, 2010: The Trainwash
Adam Brozynski

Item 175, 1987: The First Hunt
Diane A. Kelly

List of 12 Trivia Items That Were Challenging in the Age before Google

Item 277, 2011: The World’s Largest Scavenger Hunt
Ezra Deutsch-Feldman

List of 23 of the Highest-Pointed Scav Hunt Items of All Time

Item 240, 1999: The Homemade Breeder Reactor
Fred Niell

Item 289, 2015: The T-Shirt Cannon
Jake Eberts

Item 159, 1994: Daddy Issues
Jennifer Joos

List of 6 Items That Maybe Weren’t 100 Percent Legal

Item 161, 2010: Culture Shock
Joel Putnam

List of 11 Items Whose Answer Was “Coleslaw”

Item 42, 2003: The Forbidden Fruit
Dave Muraskin

Item 32, 2003: We Tempt the Wrath of God
Doug Diamond

List of 19 Items That Were Only Slightly Blasphemous, Honestly

Item 58, 2004: The Girl with the Infamous Tattoo
Cristina Romagnoli

Item 133, 2004: Does Their Relationship Lack Trust?
Nicolle Neulist

List of 16 Items Documenting an Increasingly Esoteric Feud with Pulitzer Prize–Winning Journalist Mike Royko

Item 229, 2013: The Final Feast
Naseem Jamnia

Item 123, 2001: We Were Survivors
Connor Coyne

List of 18 Items about Food

Item 241, 2013: Graceland, Also
William Wilcox

Item 20, 2008: ScavAir
Steven Lucy

List of 30 Pun Items

Item 293, 2015: Where There Is No Duct Tape
Erica Pohnan

List of 14 Items That Animals Could Have Done Without

Item 238, 1999: We Like to Party
Moacir P. de Sá Pereira

Item 47, 2006: A Party at the End of Days
Dave Franklin

List of 10 Items That Referred to The Simpsons and One That Didn’t

Item 23, 2002: Relite Niteline
Matthew Kellard

Items 282–83, 2005: Do That
Nora Friedman

Item 0, 2015: Seriously, This Is a Real Wedding
Christian Kammerer

List of 19 Items Dedicated to University of Chicago Faculty, Lore, and Campus Life

Item 58, 2003: ShoreTrisLand
Leila Sales

Appendix A: A List of Scav Hunt Teams
Appendix B: Key Locations

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