Eighth grade science students engage in weekly challenges to help them explore scientific concepts introduced in class. During the past two months, students have taken a closer look at the science of safely packing items to minimize damage in transit. What began as an assignment wherein students sent a Pringles chip through the U.S. mail developed into a pair of immersive labs involving eggs as precious cargo, and the intrepid 8th grade scientists acted as safety engineers.
No student was surprised when the original Pringle chip they mailed arrived in a padded envelope containing many mashed pieces. So for the first egg drop experience, teacher Lexi Weintraub challenged students to apply their creative and logical problem-solving skills to somehow insulate a raw chicken’s egg and protect it from multiple falls of increasing height from a balcony or flight of stairs.
Students brainstormed solutions that adhered to the following parameters and restrictions:
- The egg must be free falling—no parachutes or bungee cords.
- Any containers must be made from scratch, must be smaller than 15 cm on each direction measured and weigh no more than 500 grams once the egg is situated within it.
- The egg may not be altered in any way.
Before construction could commence, each student wrote a paragraph reflecting upon how they approached this challenge, how previous design challenges might have informed their planned solutions, their level of confidence with their planned solutions, why they thought their solutions would work as well as what they thought might go wrong.
On the day of testing, students reported to class with a range of proposed “egg-cellent” prototype containers to protect their eggs from impact. Each section reported to the glass stairwell on the southeast corner of campus and took turns dropping their solutions from the lowest level. With each drop, students either cleaned up their messes or retrieved their still intact eggs to attempt another drop from an even higher level. When all was said and dropped, there were a number of students whose solutions protected their eggs from the 4th floor of the school!
Building on the excitement of this experience, one of Weintraub’s next weekly challenges had students creating containers to catch raw eggs. In this experiment, students would drop raw eggs from a pre-assigned height, so they needed to create a landing pad that would cushion the eggs’ fall without making it bounce out and break on the surrounding area.
Again, students brainstormed on the design challenge, keeping in mind how the forces of gravity, drag, impact and potential energy would play out in the experiment as they devised their plan. They were advised to keep the prior “egg-speriment” in mind and think carefully about the materials they planned to use this time around. Students also had to predict the anticipated success or failure of their proposed plans and how they were applying their understanding of scientific forces to their solutions.
When it was time for testing, Weintraub led each section of students to the balcony of the school’s courtyard area and carefully aligned a purpose-made LEGO egg-dropping chute directly above the target area on the ground. Students then took turns placing their landing pads in the target area while eggs dropped on each, testing the success or failure of their proposed solutions.
Student creativity, energy and enthusiasm were at high levels throughout the development and testing of their proposed solutions to each of these design challenges. Reflecting upon this series of experiments, Weintraub shared, “It’s really fun. I appreciate seeing the students' enthusiasm and creativity in action.”