April 4, 2005

Eggs Drop at Annual Sciencenter Contest

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Ithacans of all ages packed into the atrium at Center Ithaca on the Commons yesterday to participate in the Ithaca Sciencenter’s 20th Annual Egg Drop contest. Contestants constructed a variety of contraptions designed to keep their eggs from breaking, using springs, rubber bands, parachutes and even loaves of bread.

In celebration of the contest’s 20th anniversary, a special guest appearance was made by Bill Nye ’77, “The Science Guy,” who emceed the afternoon session.

“We’ve really had a tremendous turnout this year,” said Mary Lou McGiff, education program manager at the Sciencenter. “I’ve been impressed by the number of truly artistic entries I’ve seen today.”

Those artistic entries included one in which gold-painted roses were attached to the egg to form a protective sphere, another where the egg was surrounded by a “still life” and one sushi-themed contraption.

Among the designs that garnered the most laughs from the crowd were a Buzz Lightyear pajama slipper in which the egg was stuffed, an egg connected to a lampshade and a fresh-baked loaf of bread with a hole in the top to accommodate the egg. Unfortunately, the loaf wasn’t enough to break the fall.

The egg drop was split into two sessions — one at 11 a.m. and one at 3 p.m. — in order to accommodate the 332 contestants. All entries had to adhere to a number of rules in order to compete: the weight of the contraption couldn’t exceed 1.11 pounds, no water or other liquids could be used and no fire or rocket-powered entries were allowed.

The contest included other entertainment to pass the time between drops. Members of the Cornell Juggling Club performed before the afternoon drop, tossing eggs and catching them in frying pans.

In addition, members of the Cornell Materials Research Society and the Cornell Chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers did short presentations on egg science. ASME members elicited screams of delight from the children in the crowd when they lowered a young volunteer onto two-dozen eggs without smashing them all.

“We have a whole series of demonstrations planned for before the drop,” said Lauren Kreuscher ’05, a representative of ASME, before the egg drop. “We’ve got egg fights, textbook-stacking on top of the eggs and other fun stuff,” she added.

The entries were dropped from the third-floor balcony of Center Ithaca, a height of almost 24 feet. They were then quickly picked up and examined by a group of volunteers, self-proclaimed “eggs-perts,” who determined whether the egg had cracked in flight. If it was a success, the eggs were then checked to make sure none of them were hard-boiled.

“We actually had one hard-boiled egg earlier on in the day,” McGiff said. “The entrant didn’t really seem that concerned about it though.”

If success couldn’t be found in an unbroken egg, contestants still had a chance to win the best splat or most artistic award. Other categories included best engineering design, best free fall and best parachute/slowest descent.

Anyone wary of egg puns would have been well-advised to cover their ears during much of the contest. Nye’s announcing included almost as many tongue-in-cheek mentions of “eggs-celent” and “egg-citing” as there were contestants, but these puns didn’t seem to turn away the crowd.

According to McGill, no Cornell students decided to field entries in this year’s contest. “I’ve always asked the students who volunteer to enter, and they always say yes or maybe, but come the 11th hour they don’t,” she said.

Perhaps Cornell students have done their homework; the largest historical indicator of egg-breakage is age, with your chances of success at winning dropping off greatly as your age increases. Kids from the preschool to first grade age group routinely field break-proof contraptions, while complicated entries from the adult age group have a high number of splats.

“Maybe they just try too hard,” McGill said.

The egg drop was sponsored by M&T Bank, Eagle Broadcasting and the Ithaca Journal.

Archived article by Dennis Dunegan
Sun Staff Writer