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STEM Design Challenge: Eco-Friendly Egg Drop Activity!

Updated: Aug 20, 2022


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The classic egg drop challenge. As a nine-year-old in 1994, I remember watching my teacher precariously straddle the school's roof and heave dozens of eggs wrapped in styrofoam and bubble wrap into the air. It is a long-lasting memory for me as a perfect union of we-couldn’t-get-away-with-this-now showmanship and STEM education.


Young child holding two chicken eggs in front of face
STEM was not part of the educational lexicon in the '90s; the National Science Foundation used the acronym SMET! (Sanders, 2009)

For those who may not be familiar with the egg drop challenge, the goal is for students to design a prototype to protect the integrity of a fresh egg when “dropped” from a high location. If the egg cracks or bursts, then the prototype is unsuccessful. For budding physicists, here are physics principles behind the activity. For those not quite ready for the physics principles, three main approaches to protect the egg are:

  • Slow the descent speed

  • Cushion egg to absorb the impact

  • Orient the egg to land on the “top” or “bottom” arches to distribute pressure more effectively


Check out Peacock Kids’ explanation:


There are many egg drop challenges online, but we found a few of our favorites for you. As you look through these materials, please note the amount of single-use plastic items mentioned that are replaceable with more eco-friendly materials. We’ll talk more about that in a minute.


Our Favorite Egg Drop Challenges


Activity 1:

Engineering Egg Drop Challenge by the Museum of Science and Engineering, Chicago

This is a 30-minute activity for elementary-age students. The activity is straightforward and does not delve deeply with additional resources; however, there is a recommendation to anchor the activity in Aerospace Engineering and the Principles of Flight by Anne Rooney and/or Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty.


Activity 2:

Egg Drop by Northeastern University Center for STEM Education

This is a 90-minute activity for 3rd-12th graders. Lesson plans, handouts, and slide decks are provided. I appreciate how one of the presentations ties in head injuries (e.g., concussions) and recent innovations to alleviate the detrimental impacts of head injuries.


Activity 3:

Egg-cellent Landing by University of Colorado Boulder at TeachEngineering.org

This is a 2-hour activity for 5th-7th graders. A quick video demonstrates prototype construction and testing. I also like the list of definitions related to forces and motion, additional assessments, and more!



How to make this Eco-friendly


The styrofoam and bubble wrap that I used in my 1994 egg drop prototype is still sitting around in a landfill somewhere. To avoid future instances of this, there are several eco-friendlier materials to serve as replacements for single-use plastic straws, utensils, and bags that are often used in the challenge. Below are a three recommended products:


Eco-Friendly Material 1:


UNNI bags are 100% compostable bags that can biodegrade in your home composter or at an industrial composting facility. These bags are certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) in the US (ASTM D6400) and have a OK compost INDUSTRIAL label by TUV Austria and Vincotte in Europe (EN 13432). They come in different sizes, but the 2.6-gallon bags are perfect for the egg drop challenge. Check out our previous blog post in greater detail about UNNI bags and the material’s characteristics like tensile strength, longevity in liquid, physical characteristics, and decomposition time.





Eco-Friendly Material 2:


Equo Coconut Straws are 100% compostable straws that can biodegrade in 6-12 months in your home composter. The material is made from (obviously) coconuts and locally sourced from farmers in Vietnam. The straws are surprisingly tough and would be a great addition to the egg drop challenge to provide shock absorption.


A box of 50 coconut straws
Equo Coconut Straws

An open box of coconut straws
Equo Coconut Straws

Eco-Friendly Material 3:

No Issue Washi tape is made out of rice paper with soy-based ink. The washi tape can be composted (FSC Certified) after the egg drop project is completed. This is a “low tack” adhesive so it is not as strong as other tapes available, but for a 1 hour(ish) design challenge, this can work well enough or provide a constraint for students to overcome!



Additional Consumables:

Through collecting from students, school stakeholders, and community partners, you can potentially obtain a variety of eco-friendly materials for the egg drop.


List of Eco-Friendly Consumables: Wood dowel rods, toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls, paper plates, cardboard, newspaper, kraft paper, popsicle sticks, yarn, string, rubber bands, egg cartons, food boxes, sponges, wooden blocks, clay
Eco-Friendly Consumable Considerations at www.benplusstem.com

One last idea is to try to obtain locally sourced eggs if you can! You may have a student that raises chickens, guinea fowl, or ducks (or knows someone who does).


The egg drop challenge is a classic STEM activity to teach forces and motion. We hope the lesson activities we highlighted for you will help you get a jump start on this fun experience for students. However, keep note that the materials you use are made from eco-friendly materials and are supporting our #sustainableSTEM initiative.


Once your students make their prototypes, we would love for you to share them with us at Letters to Ben or share with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


Extending the Design Challenge

  • Invite a community partner! Is there an engineering firm near you? A local airport? A parent with a drone? Get them involved!

  • Ask students to document their processes and present their final prototypes

  • Here is a fun activity with an Egg Drop riddle by TED-Ed Riddles


  • If you like to integrate some real world relevance in your STEM activities, check out this quick video of the Mars Explorer Landing



References

Sanders, M. E. (2009). Stem, stem education, stemmania.


Disclaimer: It is strongly advised that all STEM experiments be attempted only under adult supervision. Do not ingest any of the materials during or after performing this challenge. Safety goggles and gloves are highly recommended.


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