Rice U. Senior Turns Dorm Into Giant Ball Pit and Redefines What It Means to Be A ‘Grownup’


College senior David Nichol has balls…lots and lots of colorful, plastic balls. 13,000 to be exact and all of them are presently residing in his Rice University dorm room.

Nichol decided to take the advice of his favorite XKCD comic strip, “Grownups,” and drop $500 on thousands of plastic balls in August. Why? Because it’s awesome, that’s why!

While the wholesale price was certainly too good to pass up, there was more behind his purchase than the allure of a good bargain.

The inspiration for his creative choice in interior decoration actually came from “Grownups” as its message to readers is to take control of their adulthood and make it the best of it no matter what.

Nichol said, “Even if you’re a grownup, I feel like you should be able to acknowledge that fun things are still fun. Just because you’re not seven doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in seven year old fun things.”

One thing Nichol forgot to think about when ordering his balls was a little thing called U.S. Customs and the steps that typically need to be taken when an order of this size is made to a supplier overseas.

“There are a lot of things about importing I didn’t know that I do now – about how you need to fill out certain forms and how you need to pick them up from (the Houston) ship channel,” Nichol said.

“I actually didn’t pick them up from the Port of Houston,” he said. “They were taken to (U.S.) Customs and Border Protection to be tested to make sure they were certified balls and not something else. I’m not sure it was kind of sketchy to have 13,000 plastic balls shipped to Texas.”

He definitely raised some eyebrows when he first brought up his desire to eschew the traditional standards of being an adult…Afterall, it’s not every day someone decides they’d like to remove nearly all of the furniture in their dorm room to turn it into a ball pit.

“I think most people thought I was joking when I told them about it at first,” said Nichols. Although no judgment was passed by his family or friends, he did say “my family thought I was crazy, but they also know me. They didn’t say, ‘No, you can’t do this’ or ‘Don’t waste your time doing.’”

His new décor was an instant hit with those on the Rice University campus and resulted in so many visitors wanted to jump in that he thought it wise to draft a list of rules for everyone entering to follow.

His list of rules states, “No food or drinks, if you make out you get out and no peeing” He also requires anyone intending to cannon ball into his room to remove their shoes. Good thing all the important bases are covered, because it’s all fun and games until someone jumps in with dirty shoes and pees in your ball pit dorm room.

Nichol doesn’t bend his rules for anyone as Rice University’s Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson can attest to after his recent visit to the epic dorm room. Even university dean’s are required to take their shoes off, apparently.

Hutchinson said while immersed in ball pit, “This is fantastic. I love to see the creativity and the fun. Life is pretty intense here at Rice. People work extremely hard and to have our students have an opportunity for a way to relax and to laugh and to have a good time is an extremely important part of the college experience.”

Nichol prefers not to think about what will happen to his colorful collection of plastic balls after he graduates in May with a computer science degree.

“We’ll see. I think when you have an idea you should just go for it. You shouldn’t worry about what’s going to happen next or what’s going to happen after that. If you’re going to keep doing that, you’re never going to be able to do cool things like have a ball pit room. Which is my way of saying I don’t know what’s going to happen to them,” he said.

He knows how indelible something like this is likely to be on his legacy at the university, but he has high hopes that fellow students and classmates will remember him for more than just his ability to turn the definition of what it means to be an adult on its head.

“This is one thing. I really hope this isn’t how I’m totally remembered at Rice. I hope it’s for other things too, like when I was talking with classmates or telling them a joke, because this is one thing and not all of who I am. It might be a symbol of what I liked doing in my spare time, but it’s not the whole of my Rice experience.”

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