To a casual observer it looked like co-op employees were throwing small cardboard boxes filled with a variety of breakfast foods from atop the grain elevator, but to Mark Clodfelter’s eighth graders, it was science.

To a casual observer it looked like co-op employees were throwing small cardboard boxes filled with a variety of breakfast foods from atop the grain elevator, but to Mark Clodfelter’s eighth graders, it was science. 

“It’s the very beginning of physics,” said Clodfelter. “We talk a lot about terminal velocity and air resistance, mass, air pressure, structure and acceleration.”

For more than 15 years, as the science teacher at Haviland Elementary School, Clodfelter has challenged his students to create a device to protect a single egg from a 100-foot drop within two weeks.

The annual egg drop is an engaging tradition, it’s an exercise that takes science out of a textbook and puts into students’ hands.

“We’ve had as many as 75 percent survival rate, clear down to a 10 percent,” he said, when asked about successes over the years. “I don’t help them with it too much because I don’t want to lead them to a solution.”

He’s almost seen it all, from the simplest designs to the overly complicated.

He said that often after a trial, students tend to build off of each others successes, sometimes creating trends within the students.

This year, food was the trend, with nearly all of the students using some edible items as a cushion.

“You can tell this class is right before lunch,” laughed Clodfelter. “I think that has a lot to do with the food stuff.”

Students were beginning to rework their designs a few weeks ago, after their test drop from a 20-foot high fire escape.

Nicole Ballard had success tucking her egg inside plastic water bottles and stuffed them with marshmallows.

“I put some bigger marshmallows around the edge,” she said, admitting that while it was a success, she still had work to do. “It’s not perfect, I’m going to do something to keep the sides together and glue it down really good.”

LaChelle Tuttle plunked her egg inside a jar of peanut butter, but the jar cracked and her egg got broken. “It was really heavy, that probably made a difference.”

Tuttle said she was starting from scratch, with some new ideas. “I want to try it with a tennis ball. It might bounce and stuff and make it better and lighter. I’m not going to use the peanut butter any more. I’m going to use popcorn and marshmallows.”

Kylee Morford took inspiration from Haviland founders and went Quaker.

“I was thinking the oats would protect it from moving,” she said. “It didn’t work very well.” Moreford’s oat cushion couldn’t protect her egg, which flew out and was smashed.  

“I’m going to start from scratch. I’m going to use a shoebox and use plastic bags to keep it from moving. Plastic bags, maybe filled with air, I don’t know,” she added.

Nicholas Sears and Hector Negrete were lamenting their egg drops. Both were unsuccessful.

“I took the tissues out of a Kleenex box and used pudding inside of it,” said Sears. “Mr. Clodfelter threw it and it went upside down. I didn’t’ secure the egg very well.

I might do the same thing but try to keep it more secure. I might put jell-o or mashed potatoes inside.”

Negrete was leaning towards more airfoils and popcorn for the big drop.

“I’m making it shorter,” he said. “It fell out. I put it in the popcorn, but it tipped over and the egg fell out.”

Stephanie Gwin also had some success with her airplane/glider design.

“It actually flew a little bit,” she said. “It didn’t crash and die, so that’s a good thing. I put the wings on it because I thought it would glide, rather than fall.”

Students can’t use packing materials, like foam peanuts, or bubble wrap. It must be 12” in length or less. It also has to be reusable and sustain multiple drops. 

“Originality also gets big points,” said Clodfelter, who also said that the students aren’t the only ones who get excited. The Haviland co-op hosts the final egg drop. Employees toss the student projects off of a 100-foot high grain elevator on Main Street. “The co-op gets as excited about it as the kids do. Over the summer they’d stop me and asked if they were going to get to throw some stuff off this year.”

2012 Egg Drop Results

Student 1st Drop 2ndDrop

Hector Negrete           X X

Roderick Voss           + +

Stephanie Gwin         + +

Nicole Ballard           + X

Joy LeShana            X X

LaChelle Tuttle         + +

Kylee Morford           X

Nicholas Sears         + X