Triway students learn force and motion with eggs

Triway students learn force and motion with eggs

For the second year in a row, science and STEM teachers Melinda Werstler and Kali Bolen challenged their eighth-grade Triway Junior High students to think outside the box in a culminating activity for a unit on force and motion.

Students are challenged to design a vehicle that carries two raw egg “passengers” safely during a crash test.

After viewing car-safety crash videos and learning that safety belts are 50-percent effective in preventing injuries, students had to find a way to build a safe and fast car that would carry two egg passengers down a steep ramp into a brick wall without causing any injuries.

According to Werstler, they study the mechanical structure of cars, learning how to create working wheels. They also study safety features to learn how impact is absorbed. Students are given very specific guidelines for how their car is to be constructed. Before beginning construction, a prototype is designed.

Working with a partner, students then construct a vehicle between 20 and 30 centimeters in length, 5‑10 centimeters wide and 5‑15 centimeters tall.

They must have four wheels and two working axles. Any materials are allowed. “We encourage recycling,” Werstler said.

The egg passengers may have a seat belt but may not be completely surrounded by cushioning. There can be no brakes.

After releasing the vehicle with two egg passengers down the ramp, the eggs are examined to determine what condition they are in: eggcellent, no damage to passenger; eggcident, little damage; eggjury, moderate damage; eggmergency, severe damage; or eggsplosion, total loss.

“We haven’t had any eggsplosions,” Werstler said.

Student engineers constructed their vehicles out of everything from shoe boxes, to a pool noodle, to a potato-chip canister. Beverage caps were used for a majority of wheels. Seat belts were made of rubber bands, pipe cleaners and hair ties. Cushioning material ran the gamut from bubble wrap, to cotton balls, to Styrofoam.

Students were allowed to test their seat-belt efficacy twice. After the first trial, modifications were made as needed to increase safety for the egg passenger.

The students are allowed to proceed through the unit at their own pace, writing a thorough report of findings and ultimately calculating the vehicle’s speed as well.

“We document data and determine an overall winner for each class,” Werstler said. She explained that it’s not just about speed; the winning vehicle also must have its egg passengers survive the trial without injury.

What do students learn from participating in this project? “They work together collaboratively,” Werstler said, “listening and considering their partner’s idea, working together to build their car. They learn that failure makes them think deeper to find solutions and that failure also leads to success. It’s a think outside the box problem-solver. They get frustrated, but that’s great because that’s how they learn.”

“I just like the whole idea of trying to create something to make it fast but still safe,” student Howard Goddrich said.

Ethan Wengerd said, “It’s fun to step into somebody else’s shoes and be a car designer. There were challenges that you had to overcome to create a better end product.”

Incorporating real-world science with creative challenges that require thinking outside the box is exactly what’s needed for kids to be equipped to face an increasingly technology-focused world.

“Offering these types of learning activities promotes 21st-century skills that will strengthen their ability to succeed in school, extra activities and their future career paths,” Werstler said.

Loading next article...

End of content

No more pages to load