BOARDMAN, Ohio – Fourth-graders at Sebring’s B.L. Miller Elementary School got to the yolk of physics at DeBartolo Commons at Southern Park Mall on Sept. 21.
Thirty students in Alexis Zehnder’s and Jeana D’Ostroph’s classes participated in a drone egg drop as part of Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science and Technology’s 7 Days of STEM.
“We have been spending time since August making and preparing something to protect their egg,” D’Ostroph said.
The student-constructed contraptions included cardboard, plastic bags, duct tape, tissue, dowel rods, rubber bands and lots of cotton balls and bubble wrap.
“Basically, in science they’re learning forces and how to create things to support their egg,” the math and science teacher said. “We’re talking about velocity, talking about force – things that would really stop and go.”
A drone, operated by Brookfield High School teacher Tim Reinsel, dropped each student’s gizmo from 25 feet. Those that withstood the first drop moved on to the 50-foot drop, with those survivors advancing to a 100-foot plummet.
Macaedon Green’s gadget, which he designed to resemble a bumblebee, protected his egg for the event’s first round.
He filled a plastic sandwich bag with cotton balls and attached it to the bottom of a cardboard box filled with more cotton balls and paper for cushioning. Corrugated cardboard around the outside was held in place with dowel rods and rubber bands. Macaedon added bubble wrap for extra protection.
“I knew it was going to be good,” he said.
Leading up to the activity, the students practiced, testing out their creations from the school roof and then from a ladder provided by the Sebring Fire Department. One of the teachers scaled the ladder and dropped the egg containers from 50 feet, and an EMT performed the 100-foot practice egg plunges.
Students whose eggs didn’t survive each practice drop wrote in their science journals, documenting and analyzing what worked and what didn’t. Then they re-engineered their designs to incorporate what they learned.
“We’ve always been involved with Oh Wow! with our after-school program, and I thought, ‘This is an amazing opportunity …,’” D’Ostroph said.
Violet Sheen and Penelope Thomas, both 9, combined their physics knowledge and skills to form Team Piolet and develop two egg-drop devices.
“An egg drop is kind of where you have a concept to make something that will protect an egg from being dropped from different heights,” Violet said. “You want your egg to survive and not crack.”
Team Piolet’s eggs both survived.
“We made sure to use lots of bubble wrap and cotton balls, and made sure that the outside was protected enough and that it would bounce a little bit,” Violet explained. “If it bounces, then you hit the energy … and then you push the energy back out when it hits again.”
Using lots of bubble wrap and “fluffy materials” protects the egg, Violet offered.
Penelope said the team’s other entry used a food container to house the egg and added bubble wrap and cotton balls for cushioning.
Colleen Ruby, director of operations at Oh Wow!, said the activity helps students to learn the principles of physics.
Students also learn design principles, making modifications to their designs following the drops.
There were parameters and limitations each student’s device had to follow.
“It had to be less than 1.25 pounds in weight, and it had to be less than 20 centimeters by 12 centimeters by 12 centimeters,” Ruby said.
Designs couldn’t use parachutes, and foam was prohibited in the competition.
The 7 Days of STEM kicked off with Silly Science Sunday on Sept. 17.
The Butler Institute of American Art, the Public Library of Youngstown & Mahoning County, the mall’s Boardman Escape Room, the city of Youngstown, Penguin City Brewing, Cafe Rose and Sara’s Ceramic Studio in Austintown were among the festival’s participating locations.
The egg-drop challenge allowed students to show off their creativity and their problem-solving skills.
“I’ve seen some kids that have used entire rolls of toilet paper, and they’re trying to shove the egg into the inner core,” Ruby said. “Apparently, the eggs that we’re providing today are larger than the ones they were using at their testing at their school. They actually had to hollow out, pull the core of the toilet paper rolls out to make the eggs fit. They had to modify their contraptions right here this morning.”
Pictured at top: Students from B.L. Miller Elementary School in Sebring prepare their gizmo to be dropped from a drone.