Egg Drop Challenge with a Twist: Water Recovery

For the last engineering design challenge of the year, I gave students at the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering an old problem with a new twist. We have been studying rockets, and the latest aspect we looked at was how rockets or spacecraft can be returned to earth. We looked at the re-entry and recovery methods used by different spacecraft. The most common recovery system for US spacecraft is to parachute into the ocean to be picked up by ship. Therefore, I gave the students a challenge: design a recovery system that will land an egg in a “spacecraft” gently enough on water so that it does not break. The students researched how various real spacecraft recovery systems worked, then brainstormed ideas. Most included a parachute, and several included airbags (balloons) or padding around the spacecraft. When the students finished building their designs, I dropped each spacecraft from about 3 meters up into a kiddie pool (the ocean). In the end, almost all the eggs survived. This was a one-day challenge that was a great way to end the school year. Here are some photos: