St. John students shell-shocked after winning egg drop competition

It didn't take long to discover that a balloon wasn't going to work.

After breaking first one egg in a hot-air balloon like contraption, then another attempting to stuff it into a balloon filled with cotton balls, friends Sarah Krammer, 12, Lucy Yezulinas, 12, Jessica Lang, 13, and Megan Jones, 12, nixed that idea completely.

"It exploded," Sarah, 12, said, of the egg inside the balloon. "It got a little sticky."

Several eggs later, the team of seventh graders from St. John Catholic School in Westminster created a contraption that successfully protected a large egg from cracking upon a drop of 4 meters.

Their solution — a cone-shaped funnel with bubble wrap and a plastic bag parachute — not only protected the egg, but won the team the fourth annual Egg Drop Contest, hosted by Notre Dame Preparatory School In Towson on Jan. 28.

The team also broke the contest record for highest score — 1,024 points.

"We had to get dirty before we could have fun," Lucy, 12, said.

As the winners, each of the girls was awarded a Kindle Fire. The key to victory, the girls said, was keeping the contraption light-weight and small in size — all important for points. The cone-shape design also gave the contraption a better chance to hit — and it did— a precise target, a dot on the ground.

"Many bounced off or rolled off," Sarah said, of competitors' eggs on the target.

Twenty-five teams from eight schools competed in the egg drop contest. St. John traveling the farthest, competing against teams from Baltimore City and Baltimore, Howard and Harford counties.

Notre Dame Prep's Science National Honor Society sponsors the event to encourage elementary and middle school girls to develop or expand an interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) topics and courses. To compete, all teams must be girls-only.

St. John actually sent three teams — two seventh-grade squads and an eight-grade team. The other seventh-grade squad was composed of team members Abby Tye, Julia Planchon and Emily Hojnowski, all 12. The eighth graders — Abby DiGate, Katie Kapfer and Jillian Scott, all 13 — captured the "most creative" prize.

"We tested a bunch of things out and found out what worked best," Abby said, of her team's jewelry box contraption, decorated with pictures of the girls, a cross and Pope Benedict XVI — as well as the school's plaid pattern fabric as a parachute.

All the teams worked on their own time. Though the girls created and tested their egg contraptions at home, they were not allowed to bring a completed contraption to the contest. Everything had to be made on site.

Upon arrival the girls also learned about a special engineering challenge of the contest — creating a box from uncooked spaghetti noodles and mini marshmallows that would not break apart when dropped. Both teams succeeded with boxes intact.

"I am really proud of all of them," said Toni LaFlame, who teaches science for grades six, seven and eight at St. John. She introduced the contest to the girls and accompanied them to Notre Dame. "They did a great job."

The day of the competition did start with extra stress, however. An accident on Route 140 had traffic stopped. Jessica found herself alone at the contest while others from the school arrived late.

"For the first few minutes I worried I would be disqualified, because I was by myself and didn't have all the materials," she said.

But everything came together in the end, and overall, the girls said they enjoyed every minute of the event.

"The best part for me was before the event we said to each other, 'It doesn't mater if we win, we had a great time and worked so hard,' " Katie said.

"It taught us a lot about teamwork and being patient," Sarah said. "It was a very positive experience."

And for Jessica, who celebrated her 13th birthday on the day of the event, winning first place and a Kindle made it "the best birthday ever."

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