Not an Egg Drop Challenge is an interdisciplinary project between Physics and Environmental Sustainability (ES). This activity allowed students to combine their knowledge of water footprint, carbon emission, UN Sustainable Development Goals, and Newton’s second law of motion. Their final product was a revised version of the classic Egg Drop Challenge.

The classic Egg Drop Challenge project is often implemented in schools’ physics courses. As the name suggests, students drop an egg from the top of a building to test their parachute designs. UN Sustainable Goal 2 reports that 1 in 3 people worldwide struggle with moderate to severe food insecurity. Based on the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 15.5 million Colombians do not have sufficient access to food and face difficulties covering their basic needs. Students at Rochester posed an insightful and thoughtful question, “How can we, as role models of sustainable development, throw eggs from the roof of a building when so many of our fellow Colombians suffer from food insecurity?”. And that was when Not an Egg Drop Challenge was conceptualized.

Students in ES researched alternative products that could be used as crash test dummies instead of eggs. Students had to justify their choice using information related to water footprint and carbon emissions produced to manufacture the product. Justification was supported using numerical evidence from peer-reviewed scholarly journals. Students participated in a workshop provided by the Learning Resource Center (LRC) and learned how to use databases and search filters to find reliable resources. Students reasoned why the alternative crash test dummy material helped to achieve UN Sustainability Goals. Finally, ES students built various models from their chosen material that were tested using parachutes or landing models designed by the physics students.

Students in physics applied topics related to Newton’s second law of motion, momentum, mass, and acceleration. Their final product was a parachute or landing model that could safely carry a crash test dummy from the 4th floor to the ground. Students collected data about the mass and acceleration of each test and analyzed the data. They used mathematical representations to support the claim that the total momentum of systems is conserved when there is no net force on the system.

The activity was an overall success. Students used their creativity and problem-solving skills to create a more sustainable and thoughtful version of a classic activity. Suarez (2023) states that environmental education is not just about conveying knowledge and skills to individuals but plays a crucial role in shaping the environmental consciousness of the community. Creating sustainability projects requires educators to consider cultural, social, economic, and environmental factors that shape the community (Suarez, 2023). Therefore, future improvements include collaboration with the area of social studies and economics to explore what cultural and financial aspects could be included in future interdisciplinary projects.

Lesson Activity Link: Not-an-Egg-drop-challenge.pdf

How do you use it?

This lesson activity is to be used with pre-university students age 14-18.

Why do you like it?

We like this activity because it applies social conscience to a classic physics activity.

Target Audience

  • Student Ages 14-18
  • Educators of Students Ages 14-18

Resource Creator: Matthew Reis

I am a Sustainability and Energy Curriculum Coordinator at a private international school in Chia, Colombia. My responsibility is to integrate environmental education into all areas of the school. Our school is the only LEED Platinum Certified school in Latin America and we work hard to create sustainable habits in our students.

Collaborators: Rodrigo Armando and Gómez Angulo