Egg Pitching

Grade level: Elementary through high school

Design ways to cushion an egg that is thrown through the air. Using the theories behind air bags in automobiles, find the best way to protect it from impact so you can throw it faster and further.

  • Four-six raw eggs
  • Flat bed sheet (twin size works best)
  • Two broom stick handles or dowels
  • Needle and thread

Note to teachers and parents: Students will need to have a basic understanding of momentum and Newton's First Law of Motion for this activity.

Engineers have designed seat belts and air bags to make automobile travel safer. An air bag is made of coated fabric and is stored in a module mounted on the steering wheel. Crash sensors, which activate upon impact at speeds of 10-15 mph, are mounted in several locations on the car chassis.

In a crash, the sensors ignite a chemical, sodium azide, which releases harmless nitrogen gas to instantly inflate the bag. As the driver or passenger is thrown into the bag, it applies a restraining force. Even though this entire process happens in only 1/25 of a second, the added time is enough to slow momentum to prevent serious injury.

  1. Turn under the bottom edge of the sheet about 10 cm. Sew the flap up and insert the broom stick handles into the top cuff and the one you have just sewn.
  2. Have four classmates hold the corners of the sheet out horizontally to the ground.
  3. Have a fifth student take aim, wind up and pitch the egg up and over onto the sheet.
  4. Experiment with different speeds and distances to see how far and how fast you can throw the egg without breaking it.
Questions for the students
  1. What happens to the egg's momentum? What would happen if you were dropping the egg on a concrete floor?
  2. How could you cushion the egg itself? Would that transfer the momentum of the egg?
  3. Would a parachute attached to the egg provide enough cushion to keep it from breaking? How high could you drop an egg attached to a parachute?
  4. Does the size of the sheet make a difference in your experiments? What if you pulled the sheet taut?