We've all heard of the classic egg-drop engineering challenge, so here's a twist - crash test race cars! The students in my extracurricular engineering class love this project because of its open-ended nature and thrilling process. 

More footage of crash tests

For WYE teachers:
If you choose to include hard boiled eggs, the project will span over two classes.

The Lesson Plan

Difficulty: 2.5/5
Prep work: 3/5 (5/5 if boiling eggs)
Setup: 3/5
Cleanup: 3/5

Total lesson time from start of lecture to end of cleanup is 2 hours. I have successfully engaged students with this project for up to 3 hours. You can break this project into two 1-hour-long parts: 1. Design and test with plastic eggs. 2. Test with real eggs and redesign/build.

Tell your students that they will be designing cars that must keep an egg safe during a crash, which will be simulated by rolling cars down a ramp and into a wall, or otherwise pushing the cars into a solid, non-marking surface. They may begin to chatter excitedly about their grand ideas. To maintain the focus, I will say something like, "Yes, I know it's exciting, but it is even more fun to actually build than to talk about building. Please stay silent and attentive so we can begin soon." Works every time!

Brainstorm ideas
Rather than lecturing about how to build the project at hand, spend 5 minutes brainstorming car safety features with your students. What keeps people safe in real cars? Some basic features include seat belts, airbags, bumpers, soft seating, a roof (or rollover protection), brakes, and passenger placement (ie not at the front of the car).

The following concepts are for you, the teacher, to include in your vocabulary and utilize throughout the class. Explaining these terms is not part of the lecture since students will be learning these concepts experientially. However be sure to use these words while troubleshooting with students or when commenting on the performance of their design.

Crashworthiness - how well a vehicle can protect its occupant in a crash. Note that this does not mean the car itself needs to remain undamaged after a crash.
Resilience - how much energy (impact) an object can absorb
Mass - how much weight something has. The more mass, the faster the car will collect kinetic energy (speed) as it rolls downhill.
Momentum - the force that keeps an object in motion. Objects with more mass have more momentum. In other words, a heavy car moving at the same speed as a light car will be much harder to stop. Heavy cars will quickly accumulate momentum which results in higher speeds, but also greater impact.

Like a real car, the occupant (egg) must be able to easily enter and exit the car. Students may not permanently incase their egg inside the car.
Students may test with a real egg only with your approval. Limit of one egg per student.

Be smart with the materials
This project is very open ended, so students may gather a little bit (or a lot of) everything, regardless of whether or not they will actually use it. To cut down on cleanup, remind your students to acquire materials on an as-needed basis. Tell them that if they take inly what they need and then use it, there will be no clean up! That means more time to build, test, and play. Win win!
Learning objective
  • By designing, building, testing, and redesigning crash test cars, students will be able to comprehend and apply fundamental concepts in physics and engineering including crashworthiness, resilience, mass, and momentum.
  • Allowing students to direct their own learning by implementing the process of experiential education will promote the development of investigative problem solving, outside-of-the-box solutions, and independent decision making skills.
  • Upon completion of the lesson, students will have acquired an individualized evaluation of applied engineering.
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powscience1 year ago
Did you edit out "non survivors" in the video? Success seems to come a bit too easily here if not. Even eggs that were thrown clear of the crash were "safe". This is an AWESOME activity, but I want to modify it to be a little more challenging to "survive".
Covo2 years ago
Very nice ideas, I do something similar with my students , I limit their supplies to:
1 sheet of paper
2 feet of masking tape
a rubber band a
3x5 index card
1 1/2 straws (for axil bearings and whatever else)

I provide the wheels and axils (the plunger from nestle "push-ups" ice cream)

Although I agree with: "The presence of obviously soft or resilient materials will often hinder creative ideas."...170+ students, supplies get costly. I also make them race each other so that friction also comes into play (another teaching point) and they don't try the "slow role" technique. there is a video here:

You have some ideas I will incorporate.  I need help making the connection (in the kids minds) to newtons laws.  I "talk about it" (ho-hum), but I wish I had a piece that assesses the connection.
WYE_Lance (author)  Covo2 years ago
Nice video! - Are the cars being pulled into the wall with rubberband? They seem to be going quite fast. Love the lane markers and black/white checkered finish line

Materials do get costly (I also have about 170 students under my program), though I'm fortunate enough to have a $2 budget per student for each project. You could invest in wheels from and reuse them if you can't afford to let the students take it home.

In my lectures I don't explicitly state Newton's Laws. Instead I focus on allowing the kids to learn about them by crashing their cars and observing the results; they learn by experience, not verbal definition. Let me know how you decide to incorporate the laws of motion in your next class. Thanks for your thoughts :)
Covo WYE_Lance2 years ago
They are on an incline ramp with a trigger start. it starts at about 35 degrees , then finishes at about 15 degrees.

Thanks for the link to, I have been looking for a source for wheels.
Did the egg-sandwhicher work?
wilgubeast2 years ago
This is pretty inspirational. An easy way to make a commonplace experiment MUCH more exciting and still grounded in what the kids need to learn. This is awesome.
WYE_Lance (author)  wilgubeast2 years ago
Exactly! I've done the egg drop with kids, and the big problem is all of the excitement is wrapped up in one moment, which can quickly turn to major disappointment. With this project, if it fails, just rebuild and try again. AND the kids get to take an awesome car home instead of a busted up container :D
bertus52x112 years ago
This is fun!
jonnyd552 years ago
V-good, its cute to see how excited those kids were when they launched their cars :)

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