Tuesday, April 1, 2014

This is a creative challenge for future engineers: design a way to prevent an egg from breaking when dropped from different heights.
Engineering for Kids: Protect an Egg from Planet Smarty Pants

Tinkerlab April Challenge

Tinkerlab Creative Challenge - Eggs
Rachel at a wonderful blog Tinkerlab has a series on creative challenges with various materials. The idea behind the challenge is to present a child with a material and then challenge him or her to create something with it. The important part here is that idea should come from a child, not from a parent. The theme for April creative challenge is Eggs. Our conversation about this challenge developed like this:
  • Me: Would you like to make anything with eggs – real or plastic?
  • Smarty: Can it be an early Easter hunt?
  • Me: Umm… no. Something that requires more thought.
  • Smarty: No. I don’t want to do anything with eggs. We already have enough painted eggs to decorate the whole house!
  • Me: How about an engineering challenge then? Using any kind of materials from our recycle bin, design a way to prevent an egg from breaking when it is dropped from different heights.
  • Smarty: Jumping up and down. Yes! Yes! Engineering challenge! Yesss!

Creative Challenge Setup

Since the weather was nice on Friday, we moved our challenge outside. Smarty had access to our recycling bin, a carton of eggs, scissors and a role of tape (her favorite craft material!). She was so stoked that she designed not one, but three (!) ways to protect an egg.

Option 1 - a Plastic Container

Brainstorming how to protect an egg
Her first idea of using cardboard tubes didn’t work…
Protecting an Egg - a plastic container option
… She found a small plastic container and packed it with a bubble wrap and cotton balls.
Final touches on a plastic container contraption
She made sure that the lid fit tight. In the hindsight, she should have checked that her egg were really snug in its nest of bubble wrap…
Testing option no 1
First test of dropping an egg from her height was quite successful – an egg stayed in one piece!

Option 2 – A Soft Double Layer

Brainstorming an egg harness
She kept thinking of some sort of harness for an egg, but the idea with toothpicks didn’t get anywhere.
Egg Protection Option 2
Instead she wrapped it up in two layers of cotton balls and happily used almost all tape on her protection layer.
Ms Measurement
As I expected, she managed to use up a whole roll of tape, and asked for another one for her third idea.
A Dino Egg
We dubbed this contraption a “dino” egg. We both predicted that this one will break first, but it also survived a test drop from Smarty’s height.

Option 3 – Bubble Wrap Protection

Protect an egg - soft covers
This time Smarty decided to use flannel rags to wrap her egg in as the first layer of protection.
Egg in a Bubble Wrap
Then she wrapped her egg in two layers of bubble wrap and was ready for the final test.

Testing “Protect an Egg” Designs

Protect an Egg in Three Different Ways
We went to the park and Smarty threw her eggs from the climbing structure on the sidewalk some distance away. She wanted to try each design three times.
  • A bubble wrapped egg broke on the first try – so much for bubble wrap!
  • A “dino egg” broke on the second try – performed better than expected.
  • An egg protected by plastic container broke on the third attempt.
We were both a little disappointed that all our contraptions broke. By the way, I had my own idea too (egg in water), but I was too lazy to do a salty suspension solution, and my egg didn’t even survive a test drop. We had a lot of good conversations about why an egg protected by plastic broke. I thought that it wasn’t properly secured, but I also pointed out to Smarty that sometimes external forces acting on fragile bodies, such as eggs, are simply too great, even when these bodies are protected – this is why people still die in car accidents despite all the improvements in safety devices. I think we might repeat a plastic egg again soon to see if we could improve a little on our “safety harness”.

More Resources for Future Engineers

  1. Build a Leprechaun Trap
  2. Build an Olympic Rink
  3. Build a Boat that Floats
  4. Magic of Lego Bricks
  5. Gifts for Future Female Engineers
Follow my Pinterest Board For Future Engineers

Your Turn:

Have you tried “an egg drop” with your children yet? Were their designs successful?
I am linking this post to my favorite Kid Blogger Link Ups and Share Days.


Ticia said...

I'm thinking this could be a great way to use up all the hard-boiled eggs from dyeing Easter eggs.

maryanne @ mama smiles said...

I love how much thought went into this, and that Smarty made several designs to test.

min said...

Great idea! I've been wanting to do this experiment for some time. We'll do it on Thursday (I have 3 kids) so we'll share the results!

An Almost Unschooling Mom said...

We had good luck with an egg in oobleck. Much better than water :)

min said...

We had good results. It makes me think how there are so many ways to wrap an egg!

Rob Lang said...

Did this as an initiative exercise in the UK with the Air Cadets. The team that won boiled the egg first.

Ashley said...

This is such a fun activity! It will be fun with mine when they are a little older! The thought bubbles you added made me giggle. :)

Carrie said...

We did this in 3rd grade!! Such a good lesson. Thank you for sharing at Sharing Saturday!

Rebecca English said...

These look great. just letting you know I've featured them on the Sunday Showcase: http://www.herecomethegirlsblog.com/2014/04/12/childrens-activities-for-easter.html