Carnegie Mellon University
August 06, 2021

Buggy, Bagpipes and Brushes — Take Part in CMU Traditions

By Heidi Opdyke

Shilpa Bakre
  • Marketing & Communications

Carnegie Mellon University's Scottish heritage influences some of the school's beloved traditions — but some activities are homegrown. For newcomers to the Pittsburgh campus, here's a few things to know about being a Tartan and how to get involved with longstanding legacies.

Piping Up

CMU is one of the few schools in the United States to offer a major in bagpiping. Students interested in the instrument also have the option of performing in the Pipe and Drums band, which won the 2019 American Pipe Band Championships. Fun fact: Did you know that a robot bagpiper built at CMU named McBlare once performed at the Scottish Parliament?

tartan-traditions-900x600-min.jpegPlaid Tidings

In a nod to Andrew Carnegie, the official school color is the Carnegie clan Tartan. Built on a field of dark blue, the tartan has green, red and yellow stripes. CMU's athletic teams are also known as the Tartans.


For more than 50 years students suited up in an unofficial dog costume at athletic events. It wasn't until 2007 that Carnegie Mellon officially made a Scottish highland terrier known as Scotty its mascot.

The Kiltie Band

Speaking of bands, the kilt-clad student marching band — self-named "Band Without Pants" — has been entertaining at football games with songs, chants and cheers for a century.

Spring Carnival

Dating back to 1920, Spring Carnival is the largest event of the year and is student run. With more than 100 events typically happening there's something for everyone. In 2020 and 2021, Carnival was virtual, but two must-see activities when the celebration is in person are Buggy and Booth.


For the past century, Carnegie Mellon University's Buggy — also known as Sweepstakes — has only halted race day twice: during World War II and last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Neither kept the brakes on for long. Read more about how students are keeping the tradition rolling.


One of the biggest showpieces of Spring Carnival, these student-built, multi-level structures are designed around a theme and include interactive games and elaborate decorations. Booths are judged in four categories: fraternity, sorority, independent and blitz (smaller booths).

The Fence

Carnegie Mellon University students have painted the Fence, a once wooden, now steel-reinforced structure in the center of campus for decades. Painting requires adhering to specific rules. Hear Isaac Mills, who graduated in 2019 with a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering, explain the tradition.