Tau Beta Pi tests structural integrity of eggs

The Tau Beta Pi honor society held an egg drop competition in the Jonsson Engineering Center on Wednesday of GM Week. It started at 10 am and lasted until 2 pm; a total of 47 devices were entered with 42 competitors. The premise of the competition was to obtain the lowest score; however, an element that made this competition different from the typical egg drop was the accuracy factor. The honor society set up a bull’s-eye at the bottom of the drop; contestants that landed the egg closer to the center scored more points. Score was based on the weight of the design, the number of components used, whether the egg was intact, and distance to the center of the bull’s-eye. Some competitors specialized on certain parts of the scoring system, and others performed well in all three. Different components were employed to achieve these goals.

The hosts of the competition provided a variety of materials, such as newspapers, construction paper, balloons, tape, pencils, cups, grocery bags, among other simple tidbits. Each material had its own variety of purposes; balloons could be used like pillows to cushion the egg’s impact, grocery bags could be used to float the egg down, and newspapers could be used to glide the egg gently, while also providing cushion, if crumpled up. However, even with all these components provided, the winners proved that less is more.

Team Baker, made up of Kevin Baker ’13 and Lorne Nix ’13, won the competition with a simple yet elegant design. Consisting of two materials—tape and paper—and weighing a grand total of one ounce, the design was a paper cone held together with tape that collapsed when it hit the ground. This lengthened the time of the landing and made it tip over onto its side. Rolled paper was used to cushion the tipping impact. Some similar designs were composed of just a cup and a grocery bag, parachuting the egg gently down; these were typically very light and used about three components.

I was walking around east campus at the time of the event and, on a whim, decided to have fun dropping eggs. I quickly grabbed three balloons and blew them up. I taped them to a Styrofoam cup and placed crumpled newspaper inside it. The egg would be placed inside and then taped over with more newspaper to prevent it escaping from the cup. The balloons would act like pillows, cushioning the initial impact and preventing the cup from actually touching the ground. My balloon lander was effective at protecting the egg and was light; however, its center of mass was not at its center and flimsy in the wind. As a result, it didn’t perform as well on the accuracy aspect of scoring.

Although my entry did not get very far in the competition, it was fun brainstorming different approaches to keeping the egg safe in its fall. Everyone that took part in it had a blast building their own designs and throwing them off the side of the building. I hope that next year, there will be another competition that encourages the same amount of, if not more, innovation and creativity out of contestants.