Science Class Contest
How do you host an egg drop competition for a Middle School class? Though a fun event, there are several issues to take into consideration including design rules, prize categories, judging, and event safety. Do you sometimes wonder how a simple classroom assignment turns into highly publicized school event? This is a snapshot into the world of science projects and how a simple assignment gets blown into a publicized rodeo of entertainment.
The assignment is outlined on a Tuesday afternoon by Ms. Peppernacky, the 5th grade science teacher, with a due date set for 10 days out (2 Fridays from now). Drafted on a pumpkin colored sheet of paper the size of a postcard is the straightforward words “Science Assignment: Create a device to hold a chicken egg. The device will need to protect the egg from breaking from a fall of 70 feet”. The slips of paper are given out in the classroom on Tuesday, typically they sit in a student’s knapsack for 3-4 days until Friday afternoon, and the project is briefly mentioned to Mom or Dad on Sunday night when they ask if everyone’s homework is done for the weekend. Another 3-4 days pass by and then the child asks Mom on Thursday night if they can work on their science project, which is due the next day on Friday.
The competition rules state the egg must be uncooked, not boiled, not frozen, and not already cracked. The vehicle for the egg drop contest must weigh less than 5 lbs and be smaller than 3 feet by 3 feet in size. The competition will start at 10 feet in height off the ground, move to 30 feet, and finally reach a drop distance of 70 feet. At each level, those contraptions that have an egg that survived the tumble without breaking or cracking its shell will move on to the next stage in the competition. Each container must have the students name, grade, and teachers name on the side of the box for identification.
Every student that participates in the school project will receive a certificate of scientific achievement. Those students whose contraption and egg survive the 10 foot drop will receive a yellow ribbon, those who make the 30 foot level will receive a red ribbon, and those who successfully achieve the 70 foot level receive (you guessed it) a blue ribbon. In addition, for those students whose science project designs achieve the 70 foot level, special award categories have been defined and a pendant will be awarded to a single student in each category. The categories are 1) lightest device, 2) most unusual device, 3) most colorful device, and 4) loudest device. The certificates and awards will be presented at the end of the egg drop contest by the judges.
Mrs. Henshaw, the principal, is one of the judges. She’s a 5’ 2” red haired lady with dark brown pants and a lime green shirt. Her voice sounds like a squeaky parrot when she barks orders and the 8th grade boys call her “The Rooster”. Mr. Winkenstein is the school janitor and has joined the panel of judges out of necessity. He stands at 6’ 4” is balding with blue work pants and a white t-shirt. His voice is the simple nod of his head when walks the hallways which seems to bob up and down as he passes students who say hello. Many wonder if he’s mute, others say he stormed the beaches of Normandy at age 12. Mrs. Abernarro is the school nurse. She is a tall lady at 5’ 9 “, carries a little smirk as she walks by the playground, and has curly blonde hair. She is professionally dressed with dark gray slacks and a peach blouse. She is loved by all and, having her at the event, makes everyone feel it’s going to be a great day.
The local fire department was invited to participate in the event. The goal is that by having them at the event this would provide the hero’s visibility to the students, will potentially inspire a child to consider firefighting as a career, and will also add some flair to the event. The first drop at 10 feet is performed by the principal out a 2nd story window. One of the 8th grade boys makes the wise crack that they wonder if she would hit the ground if she fell out of the window, sharing with his buddy he thinks The Rooster is a reincarnated pterosaur dinosaur. The second drop at 30 feet is performed by the local fire chief out a 4th story window. The chief has an assistant there to pass the items before their flight. The final drop at 70 feet is performed by Lt. Spike of the fire department off the ladder of this huge Ladder truck. Lt. Spike has to make several trips up the tall ladder, each trip with 4-5 devices in a Santa style sack. The crowd is impressed with his strength and ability to climb the ladder with ease each trip. He too has an assistant follow him ¾ of the way up the ladder to assist him with the tossing of the egg containers.
Since many students either forget to give the assignment to their parents or choose not to participate, publicizing the event creates more interest and participation in the egg drop contest. A few ways to increase visibility is 1) reprint the assignment the Tuesday before the event, 2) email the assignment to parents along with an invitation to attend the event, 3) post the assignment on Facebook / MySpace or on the school website, 4) send photos to a local newspaper of last year’s event highlighting how much fun it was for the students, and 5) show the students during class time the ribbons and medals that will be awarded at the competition. It’s interesting that student’s involvement increases significantly once they physically see the medals. Also an invitation to parents to attend the egg drop event seems to increase student involvement. Describing an event as a competition and providing awards seems to bring visibility and enthusiasm to the event.