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Greenfield - High School physics teacher Derek Radtke, who is uneasy about heights, stood on a tiny platform two stories above the school atrium, dropping package after package of eggs onto the floor far below.

Despite the whole thing being a bit frightful for him, Radtke said he was pleased that this was the first time more than half the physics students designed packages that protected those fragile eggs enough to survive the two-story fall.

"Some of the students did a very cleaver design," Radtke said. Probably the oddest one was made of drinking straws and looked a little like a three-dimensional asterisk, he said. There was no padding at all, but a lot of duct tape. It was odd, but it worked.

"This was a momentum lesson," he said.

Crumple zones

To prepare the classes, he talked a lot about crumple zones. One of the successful designs involved using a series of tubes made out of Mountain Dew box, that flexed on impact, Radtke said.

Another one that he personally liked featured a cradle for the egg suspended by rubber bands on four sides. "If it had landed just right, it would have survived," he said. A top or bottom landing would have worked, but it landed on its side.

The scene at the annual egg drop is always fun.

There's silence as the package falls, then the sound effects of thuds and splats and the laughter. "It's a laugh riot when it hits," Radtke said. "And the terrified faces when they are opening their capsules."

Successful year

Radtke said he had never had any classes with a better than 50 percent survival rate until now. This year hour one students had five eggs survive, four broke, hour three had nine survive, three broke and hour seven had seven survive and five broke.

The egg drop, a yearly tradition for physics students, has many benefits for the students, Radtke said.

"The creativity of building something from the ground up," is one of the benefits, he said. "I supply the cardboard, that's about it."

What he likes best, though, is how it shows the young people in a graphic way how critical seatbelts are. They study momentum and how seatbelts stretch to spread force over time, he said.

"We talk a lot about car crashes," he said. Kids are less likely to wear seatbelts and here they learn the clear lessons of physics and of why seatbelts are important, Radtke said.

 

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