Thornapple Kellogg — It’s third hour at Thornapple Kellogg High School and a small crowd of 11th-grade physics students becomes quiet as a Genie scissor lift delivers their teacher, Alex Robinson, to the top of their school’s atrium.
Within seconds, small, lightweight packages containing fresh eggs are dropping from the lift to the floor below. Groans erupt from the group when a package hits the tarp-covered ground with a thud — or in some cases, a splat. Students cheer when a package sticks a more gentle landing.
Robinson’s class is conducting a classic egg drop experiment in which students are asked to develop a package that can protect a fragile egg from breaking when dropped (or slammed) from various heights.
The experiment is a culmination of a unit about force and interactions.
“What this is meant to teach … is how you can decrease force by increasing the distance or time during the interaction,” says Robinson.
Most students use everyday materials like cardboard and cotton balls to protect their eggs, but a few think outside the box, placing their eggs in a football, a stuffed moose and even a makeup bag filled with sponge curlers. Some packages are outfitted with parachutes to increase the amount of time they spend in the air, and one student crocheted the outside of her box to give it more cushion.
A Very Special Victory
Victor Roberton, a senior in TKHS’s program for students with mild cognitive impairments, runs across the egg-covered tarp to grab his group’s box, which they’ve stuffed with cotton balls to protect its fragile contents. After surviving three drops, he can’t wait to discover how his egg has fared after being slammed to the ground from the scissor lift in round four.
In fact, it’s the only package in the third-hour class that survives round four of the egg drop experiment, and now Victor is over the moon, jumping up and down like he’s just made the winning touchdown in the Superbowl.
It’s a big win for Victor and his groupmates will likely long remember the practical lessons they learned from the experiment.
Robinson says students are learning the foundation of all safety equipment used at job sites, in recreational activities and even at home.
“There are a lot of practical applications (of the tradeoff of force/time and force/distance), (like) why it’s better to walk on carpet all day instead of a hard floor and the value of throwing down a mat in your kitchen to stand on. (It teaches) why you should wear a helmet and how to find the right one.”
The Eggsecutioner Arrives
Later in the day, four groups watch as their eggs survive round five, during which a school security officer slams the packages to the ground with full force. Minutes later, a baseball-bat-wielding English teacher named Mrs. Saxton is up at the proverbial plate for round six. A softball player in her days at TKHS, the “Eggsecutioner” leaves no eggs uncracked.
Thankfully, students whose eggs don’t survive Saxton’s bat don’t lose any points on their projects, since the majority of their grade comes from pre- and post-experiment write-ups. As long as the students present an egg-protecting package that meets the size and weight requirements and at least partially survives round one, they’ll earn between 17 and 20 out of 20. Success in rounds two through six just add bonus — and bragging — points.
In fact, 40% of the 106 packages presented throughout the day survive the third round drop from the atrium ceiling, and 17% survive the lift slam. Only six make it through the ground slam, and it’s no surprise that not a single one withstands the force of Saxton’s infamous bat.
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