The Great Egg Smash Challenge

Can you save your egg?

Can you make a structure that can protect an egg from a crash – using only waste materials? This was the fun challenge posed by Dr Kerry Kirwan and his team at Warwick University, to engage children and adults in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects.

Egg Smash Challenge - decorated eggParticipants are asked to build a structure to protect an egg from damage – using only waste or natural materials. This is then tested to destruction in a specially built “Drop Tower”. The activity also asks those taking part to work out the costs, weight, and the energy footprint of the materials used. The challenge is adaptable so can be used with a range of different audiences.

Egg smash - crash protection structureUsed as part of workshops with local schools, as well as with inter-university teams, the activity highlights some of Warwick University’s research in resource efficiency and structural engineering. It also encourages participants to get creative – not to mention competitive – with prizes for the best decorated egg!

The activity was developed with support from Creative Outreach for Resource Efficiency (CORE) – including a custom-built Drop Tower, with high speed camera to capture the crash itself and learning materials suitable for different age ranges of students and others taking part.

Innovative Manufacturing GRP Administrator, Rachel Kirwan had a go at the activity as part of an inter-departmental challenge, explains: “The first challenge was to design and make a structure. We then had to add up the costs of the materials and the weight of the structure.  It was then tested in the Drop Tower to see if the egg had been protected, or if it had cracked. It was then taken from its station in the Tower, and cracked open to make sure that the yolk was not disturbed by the impact.

Egg smash - the Tower“Once we had all tested our structures, the next challenge was to modify the crash structure.  We had to reduce the cost and weight by twenty percent! We had teams from a range of departments and disciplines – Doctorate students and post Docs from Warwick Materials Group, Global research administrators, university house administrators, Under Graduate engineers and Post Graduate physicists. I am delighted to report that the University house admin team won!”

The activity has also been run with 30 local schools with pupils aged 14 to 16. As well as being a fun exercise, it also helped students develop an understanding of the compromises that are required in engineering to balance not just the cost and performance, but also the environmental impact.

Egg smash - tower in actionYear six pupil Edward Buckley, from Park Hill Primary School, Kenilworth said: “At Warwick University, we were shown an imitation of a crash test using an egg drop tower to show us how cars have crash structures which can help absorb energy to protect you in a crash. The experience was informative, interesting and fun – especially when we decorated the eggs before testing them!”