Rain threatened the 10th annual Egg Drop Engineering Competition on March 24, but Westdale Heights Academic Magnet School faculty and staff members weren’t worried.
Never once, in a decade, has it ever rained on Egg Drop Day.
Fourth-graders Marvin Dotson, Keith Cunningham and Kerron Stewart explained that the egg drop challenged them to create a container protective enough to keep a raw egg intact after a drop from a two-story building.
Dotson, Cunningham and Stewart decided to start with a jar of peanut butter. They scooped out a hole, put the egg inside, and covered it up as best they could.
They wrapped the peanut butter jar in various layers of bubble wrap, newspaper and other shock-absorbing materials, and taped all of that inside a box.
Food items were popular materials in the fourth grade’s experiments.
One group used puffed marshmallows as part of their internal egg cushioning.
Addison Keith and London Bess started with a tissue box, plastic bags and then used cut-up sponge pieces and cotton balls to fill the container holding the egg.
Ian Elder used headliner material — cushioned fabric used to line the ceilings in vehicles — as one of his cushions.
“My dad works on cars,” he said, adding that he and his father discussed how to keep the energy of the fall from going to the egg.
“It’s like race cars. When they build race cars, they make them so they will fall apart.” The energy, Elder said, is transferred to the parts, hopefully keeping the driver safe.
His project partner MaMarcus William also said they considered the placement of the egg inside the container as part of their plan.
It’s discussions like these that Westdale Heights Principal Catasha Edwards likes to hear.
The Egg Drop Challenge has been a staple for the kindergarten class for the last 10 years, and then the school’s science teachers decided to open up the challenge to the entire school, creating individualized parameters for each grade level.
“Engineering is all about solving problems within certain constraints,” said teacher Cheryl Donnelly.
Some grade levels were allowed to take their experiments home to complete, and could use whatever materials they had on hand. Other grade levels had to choose from specific materials provided by the school, and were given a “budget” of points to spend on said materials.
After Donnelly’s fifth-graders designed, constructed and executed their first drop, they got a surprise do-over.
Failed experiments, she explained to the students, are how we learn. She gave them each their old materials back, and 30 more points to “spend” on more materials, and they had a few minutes to revamp their designs and attempt a second drop.
Whether the eggs broke or stayed intact was really beside the point, to a degree, said Lynn Mitchell, school counselor. The more important goal was to get students accustomed to critical thinking.