April 9, 2003

Eggs Drop in Center Ithaca

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“SPLAT!” yelled the crowd Saturday afternoon as raw eggs broke on the ground at the Sciencenter’s 18th annual Egg Drop. Held in the Center Ithaca, kids and adults alike congregated around an indoor balcony as a variety of creative contraptions fell from a two-meter height with one common purpose: to bring a raw egg safely to the ground.

Sponsored by M&T Bank, this event has become a popular springtime attraction for the community. While some in attendance seemed more interested in enjoying an ice cream snack, most were captivated as the uniquely-named elaborate objects continued to appear on the balcony that served as the launching station.

There were all types of different entries. “Featherweight,” a competitor in the family division which had peacock feathers attached to its egg case, fell elegantly to the ground. Then there was the “Quakercopter,” a construction that attached a windmill-style contraption to a Quaker Oats box.

The typical onlooker could be heard commenting on the projects’ beauty or expressing dismay when one of them ripped apart in midair. Regardless of the egg-holder on display, the “splats” always generated the most excitement.

High-tech engineering and complicated physics do not always ensure a triumphant “break-proof” container. The Sciencenter’s PR Manager, Melissa Gattine, recalled that last year the younger kids had a better record of intact eggs than the adults. She believes that the older contestants may have had less positive results because they attempted to apply the laws of physics to their creations.

“Spinning Top,” six-year-old Evvie Halpert’s entry, was a design that had a pinwheel-type wing structure, and carried her egg safely to the ground. Though Evvie entered the contest last year, this time her idea was much more sophisticated due to her new-found knowledge of wing design and engineering.

Throughout the day, two contests were held. In the first session, there were 180 entries and in the second there were 202. The contestants competed within their appropriate age category, which ranged from preschool through adult as well as an additional family-centered competition.

One kid who used Jello to support his egg was informed after registration that his device was too heavy. Still wanting to participate, he ate some of the Jello that was weighing down his construction. After making this correction, he came back to reenter his contraption which was now within the weight limit.

Over 100 volunteers were necessary to make the day run smoothly. A number of Cornell students came down to the Commons to help.

“I think the Sciencenter always has a great relationship with students,” Gattine said. “This year we have ASME students, Cornell Material Research Society, Cornell Tradition and OnSite Volunteers helping us out.”

Students were responsible for working at registration tables and handing out free goodies and raffle tickets to audience members. This year ASME students and Cornell Materials Research Society did a fun science presentation before the competition in which they explained why the pointy side of the egg is its strongest part.

“I think it is important to show that we are involved in the community and not just causing trouble in Collegetown,” Jen Garlock ’04, a volunteer, said. “I think the community appreciates it when we do things like this.”

While the kids enjoyed seeing the college students, Cornellians were impressed by the quality of the youngsters’ models.

“Some of the preschoolers’ devices looked like the work of mechanical engineers,” Jennifer Smith ’05 said.

Volunteers were also responsible for monitoring the final state of each container. After each entry hit the ground, students wearing green medical gloves carefully inspected each egg to see if it had cracked in flight. If the egg appeared unscathed, the judges made sure that the egg had not been boiled ahead of time in order to resist being damaged. Then came the announcement of the final results.

No matter how the egg finished, each participant left with a certificate of participation, a sticker and a magnet. Some pieces won particular awards for their outstanding quality. Special recognition was given for each of the following categories: best engineering design, best free fall, best parachute, most creative, best in the age group and best unsuccessful effort.

The Sciencenter’s competition succeeded in bringing together Cornell students and the Ithaca community.

“Everyone down here seems very excited,” Alex Metzroth ’05 said. “A lot of people from Ithaca have ties to Cornell in one way or another, so they enjoy us helping out.”

Archived article by Dana Rosenberg