Students guide their ‘satellites’ in deep descent

A countdown of “3… 2… 1” went up from the small crowd before instructor Skyler Ogden let the box fall Saturday from the roof of Grand Junction’s downtown parking garage.

A few minutes later, about 15 middle school students cheered in delight as they removed an unbroken egg from the box’s contents. Credit for keeping the egg whole went to 11-year-old Andrea Chamorro, who had packed it so well.

“Coming up with the goo thing helped,” she said, showing the egg surrounded by a sticky, gelatinous pink substance.

The goal of these young engineers was to develop a casing for an egg to be dropped without being broken. The project is one experiment offered to students through the John McConnell Math and Science Center of Western Colorado’s Engineering Challenge program.

The egg drop is designed to simulate the entry and landing of a satellite into the atmosphere of another planet.

Students were tasked with taking into consideration conditions of their assigned planet or moon. Andrea then was responsible with protecting her egg as it landed on the icy, smooth surface of Europa, Jupiter’s sixth moon.

The egg was nestled in the goo and laid inside a larger plastic egg. That was encased in a box filled with sponges, and all of it was tightly wrapped with duct tape.

Students also had to factor in the type of atmosphere surrounding their planet, the landing surface and the temperatures their creations would endure.

Because of the dense atmosphere on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, 14-year-old Curtis Beckel constructed a parachute made of black plastic for his shuttle.

Curtis used expanding foam to create a base, connecting it to a piece of PVC pipe. He suspended his egg inside a smaller container in the pipe and outfitted the exterior with a small sticker of an American flag and the NASA logo. His creation looked like a miniature rocket.

But what really mattered is that his egg stayed intact.

“I thought about suspension on a car,” the eighth-grader from Redlands Middle School said. “Since I was little I wanted to be an engineer. I’m expanding that dream.”

Students in the class had to work within a $25 budget, and prizes were given for the most creative, the smallest surviving capsule, and the capsule most likely to survive the conditions of the planet.

After the event students were briefed on their assignment, which was to remain classified until that time.

Students then will have a month to work on the next and final project for this session of the Engineering Challenge program.

For information about programs at the center, go to http://www.mathandsciencecenter. org or call 254-1626.



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