Twenty-one students from the Math Matters club at Thomas W. Pyle Middle School, Bethesda, competed in the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division (NSWCCD) Third Annual Egg Drop Competition, Nov. 20.
“The drop is an annual design competition as part of the Division’s outreach efforts designed to spark students’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM),” Nicholas Malay, NSWC Carderock Division public affairs person, wrote in an email.
The event is a test to see if students could design protective casings for raw eggs being dropped from about 20 feet in the air onto a cement target below. The students are tutored weekly by co-organizers and NSWCCD engineers Kavi Dotson and Alyssa Littlestone at Pyle.
The egg drop was the culmination of a field trip to the Carderock facility which included a tour of Carderock’s Maneuvering and Seakeeping (MASK) and Rotating Arm basin led by Toby Ratcliffe, the facility’s education and outreach coordinator, who has over 34 years of experience as an ocean engineer working to test scaled ship and submarine models.
“The classroom and real world application experiences help our students to get excited about mathematics,” said Stacy Levy, chairwoman of Pyle’s Math Department and Math Resource teacher. “Through our math team activities, the middle schoolers see first-hand how math is incorporated in their lives,”
The students also participated in a discussion on ‘The Wonderful Language of Math’ led by NSWCCD Technical Director Tim Arcano.
The final event of the visit was the egg drop, where the students, who were divided into six teams, dropped their eggs, hoping for a solid outcome. Based on a numerical scoring equation, success in the competition was dependent on three factors: protecting the egg; the cost of the design relative to that of the other teams and accuracy of hitting a target directly below the drop site.
Team “Temple Runners” earned the winning medal with the highest score. Their design used Popsicle sticks, masking tape, and a plastic bag. The winning design was the only one of the six groups to prevent the egg from cracking.
“This year the students were really challenged by the new rules,” Littlestone said. “I think everyone had a lot of great ideas and it was fun to watch them work together to construct them in the classroom.”
Eighth-grader Ryan Shaffer said he thought it was really cool to learn about the work engineers do at Carderock.
“Their technical work and the math they use can change the country and strengthen national security,” Ryan said. “The basins were huge and it was really cool learning about how they can generate their own waves.... This field trip gave all of us Math Matters students a first-hand view of what naval engineers do every day.”