Life

Eggs and Toothpicks

In our high-school physics class (a dozen years ago), our fun year-end project was to construct a container out of toothpicks and Elmer’s glue that could prevent an egg from cracking when dropped from a height of about ten feet. The idea was to build toothpick crumple zones around the egg such that the egg’s deceleration would be slowed enough that it wouldn’t crack.

I took a different approach:

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That’s a parachute made entirely out of dried glue. Not only is the parachute made out of glue, the strings connecting it to the egg basket are made out of glue too. I only used twelve toothpicks for the basket, definitely setting the class maximum for glue and minimum for toothpicks.

So how did it perform?

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Not well. The parachute didn’t catch the air until about a foot from the ground, and the toothpick basket was so flimsy that the egg didn’t stand a chance. The glue strings held up though, so I think that if I had dropped it from thirty feet, it would have had a pretty good chance of landing safely.

If there needs to be a moral to this story, I guess it would be “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket if the basket is made out of twelve toothpicks and attached to a glue parachute, unless you’re going to drop the basket from a height greater than ten feet, in which case, you might be ok.”

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8 thoughts on “Eggs and Toothpicks

  1. Kaia and Emily says:

    How did you manage to make that parachute? We were thinking glue the top of a basketball and peel the glue off afterwards…

  2. Kaia and Emily says:

    Is the glue flimsy after it has dried? Also, we are dropping this from the top of our school’s bleachers, which is about 40-45 feet.

    • I dried a thick layer of Elmer’s school glue, and it was pretty sturdy, similar to the material a beach ball is made out of. You might want to keep some extra glue on hand for repairs though, especially around the areas where the strings are tied on.

      40 feet should give this method a much better chance of success, especially if you build a holder for the egg that is even marginally more stable than mine.

      Let me know how it goes!

      • Kaia and Emily says:

        Ok thank you, we have two or three 90 minute class periods to construct it. How did you make the strings for the parachute?

        • To make the strings, I just ran lines of glue across the same table and then peeled them up after they dried. Those broke more easily than the parachute matieral, so if you do it, make a bunch of extra ones. You might want to practice on a smaller scale before your actual construction time starts so that you know what to expect from the materials.

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