Hands-on Activity: Egg Drop

Contributed by: Office of Educational Partnerships, Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY

Two photos: (top) Four young students sit together and look like they are thinking and focusing on something outside of the image. (bottom) View looking up into a huddle of nine students in a team circle.
Teams follow the steps of the technological method of problem solving to find good solutions.
copyright
Copyright © (top) NASA http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/educ/resources.cfm (bottom) 2004 Microsoft Corporation, One Microsoft Way, Redmond, WA 98052-6399 USA. All rights reserved.

Summary

A process for technical problem solving is introduced and applied to a fun demonstration. Given the success with the demo, the iterative nature of the process can be illustrated.
This engineering curriculum meets Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

Scientists, engineers and ordinary people use problem solving each day to work out solutions to various problems. Using a systematic and iterative procedure to solve a problem is efficient and provides a logical flow of knowledge and progress.

Learning Objectives

After this activity, students should be able to:

  • Describe in their own words the steps of the technological method of problem solving.
  • Explain what is meant by the "iterative" nature of the problem solving process.
  • Explain why more than one good solution may exist to a given problem.

More Curriculum Like This

Problem Solving

Students are introduced to a systematic procedure for solving problems through a demonstration and then the application of the method to an everyday activity. The unit project is introduced to provide relevance to subsequent lessons.

Middle School Lesson
Solving Energy Problems

The culminating energy project is introduced and the technical problem solving process is applied to get students started on the project. By the end of the class, students should have a good perspective on what they have already learned and what they still need to learn to complete the project.

Middle School Activity
Do You See What I See?

Students explore the concept of optical character recognition (OCR) in a problem-solving environment. They research OCR and OCR techniques and then apply those methods to the design challenge by developing algorithms capable of correctly "reading" a number on a typical high school sports scoreboard....

High School Lesson
Time for Design

Students are introduced to the engineering design process, focusing on the concept of brainstorming design alternatives. They learn that engineering is about designing creative ways to improve existing artifacts, technologies or processes, or developing new inventions that benefit society.

Elementary Lesson

Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

  • Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Design involves a set of steps, which can be performed in different sequences and repeated as needed. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Brainstorming is a group problem-solving design process in which each person in the group presents his or her ideas in an open forum. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Recognize and analyze alternative explanations and predictions. Students should develop the ability to listen to and respect the explanations proposed by other students. They should remain open to and acknowledge different ideas and explanations, be able to accept the skepticism of others, and consider alternative explanations. (Grades 5 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Identify appropriate problems for technological design. Students should develop their abilities by identifying a specified need, considering its various aspects, and talking to different potential users or beneficiaries. They should appreciate that for some needs, the cultural backgrounds and beliefs of different groups can affect the criteria for a suitable product. (Grades 5 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Design a solution or product. Students should make and compare different proposals in the light of the criteria they have selected. They must consider constraints--such as cost, time, trade-offs, and materials needed--and communicate ideas with drawings and simple models. (Grades 5 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Implement a proposed design. Students should organize materials and other resources, plan their work, make good use of group collaboration where appropriate, choose suitable tools and techniques, and work with appropriate measurement methods to ensure adequate accuracy. (Grades 5 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Evaluate completed technological designs or products. Students should use criteria relevant to the original purpose or need, consider a variety of factors that might affect acceptability and suitability for intended users or beneficiaries, and develop measures of quality with respect to such criteria and factors; they should also suggest improvements and, for their own products, try proposed modifications. (Grades 5 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Scientific inquiry and technological design have similarities and differences. Scientists propose explanations for questions about the natural world, and engineers propose solutions relating to human problems, needs, and aspirations. Technological solutions are temporary; technologies exist within nature and so they cannot contravene physical or biological principles; technological solutions have side effects; and technologies cost, carry risks, and provide benefits. (Grades 5 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Perfectly designed solutions do not exist. All technological solutions have trade-offs, such as safety, cost, efficiency, and appearance. Engineers often build in back-up systems to provide safety. Risk is part of living in a highly technological world. Reducing risk often results in new technology. (Grades 5 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Technological solutions have intended benefits and unintended consequences. Some consequences can be predicted, others cannot. (Grades 5 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • 4. Energy exists in many forms, and when these forms change energy is conserved. (Grades K - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
Suggest an alignment not listed above

Materials List

Per demo (or per group of four students each, if you are brave!)

  • 4 raw eggs
  • 4 drinking glasses filled with water (best if the glasses have a slightly wider top and do not taper); fill the glasses about ¾ full
  • 4 rolled playing cards; roll the cards so that the shorter sides are at the top and bottom and tape shut
  • 1 cafeteria-style tray or cookie sheet

Introduction/Motivation

A line drawing in a spiral shape shows these steps: 1) describe the problem, 2) describe the result you want, 3) gather information, 4) think of solutions, 5) choose the best solution, 6) implement the solution, 7) evaluate results and make necessary changes.
The seven steps of the Technological Method of Problem Solving.
copyright
Copyright © 1993 Adapted from Hacker, M, Barden B., Living with Technology, second edition. Delmar Publishers, Albany NY

Scientists, engineers, and ordinary people use problem solving each day to work out solutions to various problems. Using a systematic and iterative procedure to solve a problem is efficient and provides a logical flow of knowledge and progress. In this unit, we use what is called "The Technological Method of Problem Solving." This is a seven-step procedure that is highly iterative - you may go back and forth among the listed steps, and may not always follow them in order. But it is important to remember that in many engineering projects, there could be more than one good answer. The goal is to get to the best solution for a given problem.

Procedure

Before class setup:

  • Place the four glasses in a square pattern approximately 10 cm apart. Make sure the table they are placed on is level and does not roll.
  • Place the tray on top of the four glasses.
  • Next, place a rolled card directly above the center of each glass.
  • Lastly, place a raw egg, narrow end down, on top of each card.
  • From the side, the final set-up should look like Figure 1.

A side view of the setup of the egg drop demo. From this view, can see two half filled glasses on top of a table.  The tray rests on the glasses and the rolled cards with eggs are on top of the tray
Figure 1. Setup for the egg drop demonstration.

  • Practicing before class is recommended!

With the students:

Review the need to solve a problem

  • Talk about what you have been doing in the last week with the students. Ask: What did you learn from the game we played? Do you think the world has an energy problem? and If you said yes, could you describe it? What is it?
  • Explain that engineers solve problems all of the time. They have developed procedures to think through problems and possible solutions so they can make the most effective decisions possible.

Introduce the Technological Method of Problem Solving

  • Pass out the Problem Solving Spiral handout
  • Use an overhead or draw the Technological Method of Problem Solving on the board
  • Go through the spiral, step by step. Ask the students: What is a problem that you face everyday? (What to wear?, What to get a friend for his/her birthday?, etc.)
  • Connect the steps to other methods that they are familiar with. The most common method students learn is the Scientific Method.

Egg Demo - Conduct either in groups or as a class

  • Have students watch the demo and participate in the engineering design process to solve the problem. They should write notes for each of the steps.
  • Step 1: Tell the students the problem: The eggs represent radioactive materials that must get into the water to cool down before a melt down occurs. Clearly, touching the eggs would represent an unacceptable human health risk.
  • Step 2: Describe the results that you want: a) You want to get the eggs into the glasses without touching the eggs and glasses. b) Have the students identify the constraints and possible problems they face. (The eggs are unstable, the tray is in the way, etc.)
  • Step 3: Go over what they know about the problem and what they need to learn. (They know that the eggs are directly above the glasses, they know that they cannot touch the eggs or glasses but can touch the tray and cards, etc.)
  • Step 4: Have them brainstorm solutions: Go over the pros and cons of each solution and let them debate as a class. You will probably get a lot of ideas about balancing the eggs on the cards while you move the tray.
  • Step 5: Chose the best solution: Ultimately you want to lead them to the solution of hitting the tray out from under the eggs and cards. (leading them can include a wrong answer and failure, to illustrate re-entering the spiral.)
  • Step 6 Implement the solution – Hit the tray sideways to see what happens! This will take the cards with it and allow gravity to move the eggs into the glasses. Re-evaluate and repeat if necessary

Discussion and closure

  • Discuss with the class why this worked – physics and gravity!
  • What would have happened if you just tried things randomly with out going through this logical process. Lots of broken eggs and a mess!

Attachments

Assessment

The activity embedded assessment: discussion throughout the activity enables the teacher to gauge whether students understand the problem solving steps. This is pre-requisite knowledge for the next activity.

Other Related Information

This activity was originally published by the Clarkson University K-12 Project Based Learning Partnership Program and may be accessed at http://www.clarkson.edu/highschool/k12/project/energysystems.html.

Contributors

Susan Powers; Jan DeWaters; and a number of Clarkson and St. Lawrence students in the K-12 Project Based Learning Partnership Program

Copyright

© 2013 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2008 Clarkson University

Supporting Program

Office of Educational Partnerships, Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY

Acknowledgements

This activity was developed under National Science Foundation grant nos. DUE 0428127 and DGE 0338216. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: July 14, 2017

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