September 14, 2015 by libraryheather
Program Title: Egg Drop
Target Age Range: Grades 4-6
Program Length: 90 minutes
Can you make a carrier for an uncooked egg that will survive a drop from the top of a 12-foot ladder?
Raw eggs (budget for at least 1 per child, even though they work in teams, +1 for the demo)
12-foot ladder (or anything taller than that!)
Balloons (we recommend budgeting at least 4 per group…balloons were a very popular choice)
Printer paper or similar
Sponge (1 per group)
Paper or plastic cups
Small boxes like these–we found ours at a Dollar Tree (1 per group–these are not necessary, but were, of course, HIGHLY popular and made kids feel more confident with the project)
Scratch paper for each group
Pencils (1 per participant)
Scissors (1 pair per group)
Large plastic cup
Toilet paper tube
Low table or chair that you can stand on to do test drops
Access to a sink with soap and water, or wet wipes (sometimes the eggs break and get all over their hands!)
Optional: Plastic sheeting if you’re doing either the test or real drops indoors
Cost: $$ 50-100, assuming you have to buy most supplies, but less if you have most of it on hand.
Practice doing the Egg Drop Inertia demo. It totally works and you will not be disappointed, but it seems like it shouldn’t work–so, to feel confident in your abilities, just try it out at home first.
1. Settling in and welcome: 5 minutes
2. Discuss gravity and inertia: 10 minutes
3. Inertia Demo: 5 minutes
4. Explain the project parameters and how the rest of the program will go: 5 minutes (see Special Instructions and Procedures below for details)
5. Design and testing from a low height (this is where it’s helpful to have a plastic sheet!): 45 minutes
6. Egg drop off of a tall ladder or other high height: 20 minutes
Special Instructions and Procedures:
Our favorite resource for discussing the science of eggs and how to best protect them in a fall was this awesome page from Science World. Our favorite resource for understanding and discussing the science behind egg drops was found in this great printable from My Favorite Kind of Crazy’s blog. Amy Koester at the ALSC Blog also has a great, simple explanation. This PDF from Ms. Story’s Physics Class blog has a better advanced explanation of the multiple physics concepts in play for an egg drop. Weird Science Kids has some basic definitions of the concepts, in case you don’t remember your physics (like us). We used the photos from a 2004 NJIT event to discuss different types of designs they might try out. We also showed them photos of these straw and tape designs from eHow.
This is to be done in groups of 2-3 (preferably 2). They should work together to sketch out a design using whichever materials are available. That being said, they absolutely may not take all of one material–everyone must share. Additionally, each group only gets one sponge and one container. The goal is to use the least amount of materials in a creative design that will protect your egg when it drops from the top of a very tall ladder. As soon as they have a design ready, you (not them, you!) get up on a low table or a chair and do a test drop over a plastic sheet. This allows them to modify their design as needed before the big drop.
Advise parents to join you for the last 20 minutes of the program, in which you’ll be doing the actual egg drop. Everyone gets a kick out of it!
Steve Spangler’s Egg Drop Inertia Trick
NASA: Mars Pathfinder Egg Drop Challenge
What we would do differently:
Nothing at all. This program worked beautifully. The kids were engaged the entire time, and they thoroughly enjoyed the egg drop portion. Only a few eggs broke, and those teams actually sprinted off to make last minute modifications and asked to try again. That’s the spirit!
…We would’ve liked to drop the carriers off the roof, but our dreams were quickly dashed by the reality of toting multiple egg carriers up a perilously high and unforgiving ladder to the roof. Le sigh.
Adaptation for older/younger audience:
We wouldn’t recommend this for a younger audience. However, egg drops are definitely creative engineering fun for this age and older! If you did it with older kids, we would recommend giving them fewer materials (especially containers) so that the engineering design challenge is more difficult. NJIT has an excellent guide for this type of event with older children. You could also make it challenging by using almost all straws to construct egg drop carriers, as in this eHow article. NASA also has an egg drop activity for middle schoolers that intersects the concepts of Mars Rover “payloads” and egg drops.