What design works best for an egg drop parachute? A silk chute with string drooping down to a basket is a typical design, but will do little to protect your egg upon impact.

What is a better egg drop design to protect your precious cargo?

My 5th grade daughter landed home one Friday night with a weekend homework assignment to "design a vehicle to prevent an egg for breaking when being dropped from 70 feet". For this Middle School project, our town was going to use a fire ladder truck during the science fair event to avoid a teacher falling out of a window. That morning, with red lights flashing, a Santa suited individual climbed the ladder with a sack full of student projects and, one by one, tossed them to the wind (gravity took care of the rest).


The Results:

Egg Drop LandingCredit: Steve Johnson, CC, FlickrMy daughter tried several egg drop designs using parachutes, balloons, string, cotton balls, and scotch tape. She found the best design was first boil the egg, but her teacher modified the rules that week to exclude this technique. Foiled again! So we began a search for her egg drop project to find a technique that would use a parachute, but NOT a standard parachute as you might see in a WWII movie.

All parachute designs we reviewed focused on slowing the descent, but did not address the actual landing. The fall would not typically hurt the egg, but the sudden stopping would. Most solutions focused on a (1) step solution such as cotton ball padding. We focused on a multi-step solution, which slowed the egg in stages much like a lunar capsule using a parachute with a water splashdown to provide a softer landing.

The Best Design:

Of all the egg drop designs we observed, this one worked the best.

An egg wrapped in bubble wrap, inside a box that was inside another. Upon impact the outer box absorbed most of the damage, the inner box was cushioned from the outer box and provided a "splashdown" affect, and the egg was in perfect condition.

I explained to my daughter the "crumple affect" of using modular components to help protect the inner contents is much like how an automobile is designed for safety. The outside of the vehicle absorbs the impact, which helps to protect the passengers.