• Teaching Design Principles to Kids: Over the Balcony Egg Drop

    How better to learn about design than by chucking a raw egg over a balcony? Besides being a highly exhilarating release (Weeeee! SPLAT!), it also turns out to be a great hands-on way to teach basic design principles to kids. My Adaptive Path mate Ljuba Miljkovic and I just tried it out with two fantastic 12 year-olds (Thanks, ladies!), and it went something like this…

    First, we explained five key principles of the design process:

    1. We use design to solve problems.
    2. We never know the solution when we start—and that’s okay. We’ll figure it out.
    3. There is always more than one solution, so we brainstorm lots of them (concepting).
    4. We try out some of those solutions, and pick the one we think works best (prototyping, user testing).
    5. It’s never perfect the first time, so we keep tweaking it till we get it right (iterations).

    To illustrate our point, we took on a design challenge: create a container for a raw egg that will keep it from cracking when launched over our 2nd story balcony, using only the following materials:


    (And 4 pipe cleaners. Admittedly, we cheated a little with the tape and used more than one strip.)

    a photo of the team

    a photo of the team

    a photo of the team

    We ended up with five very different approaches.

    a photo of one of the approaches

    a photo of one of the approaches

    a photo of one of the approaches

    a photo of one of the approaches

    a photo of one of the approaches

    And the moment of truth: We dropped them from our balcony.

    a photo of the team on the balcony

    The best, most surprising part, was that the designs we thought would make it were destroyed—and the ones we thought would fail, survived!  Here are the eggy remains to prove it:

    a photo of cracked egg

    a photo of a cracked egg

    a photo of a cracked egg

    a photo of an intact egg

    a photo of an intact egg

    Photos by: Maria Cordell and Teresa Brazen

    There are 2 thoughts on this idea

    1. fyg

      One observation having participated in & led this exercise a few times is the tendancy of the design teams to intuitively start by building a protective “shell” type device, as opposed to the (more effective, usually) parachute based design.
      I wonder how much the average contraption would change if the egg had a picture of a human figure drawn on it — if this would lead designers to think about the analogous means of protecting people falling long distances.

    2. Marko Dugonjić

      I’m so stealing this for the family adventure day, but we’ll probably use frozen Kinder Surprise.

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