Space Theme: Egg Cargo

    One of the jobs of the space shuttle is to transport equipment such as space probes, satellites, and telescopes out into space.  The space shuttle engineers need your help. They have fragile "cargo" on-board that needs to be taken out into space. Your team has been assigned the mission to design a container that will protect this "cargo," even if it is dropped.
First think of possible packaging materials that could be used.  Your job is to package your "cargo," using layers and a variety of packing materials.  Test your container by dropping it from different heights. Are you satisfied that your "cargo" will arrive in space safely?  Compare your "cargo" test results with others. Which packaging design can withstand the greatest drop? Share your results with the class.


Teacher briefing:

    The purpose of this brief is to give students practical applications for space technology, and to challenge them to design these materials.

Materials for This Activity (Optional)
Old packing materials
Styrofoam containers
Empty egg carton
Pictures a space shuttle and cargo bay

Suggestions for Implementation:

1.Orientation. Introduce this activity by reviewing the purpose of a space-shuttle cargo bay. Elicit from the students that the cargo bay is used to store equipment such as Spacelab, satellites and telescopes in space. It also carries payload-support hardware, such as launch cradles. Everything stored in the cargo bay must be weighed. Share books, photos, posters, and model of a space-shuttle cargo bay. List the types of cargo it might carry.

2.Organize Groups. This is a small-group activity. Organize students into several small-cooperative groups of three or less students. Make sure that students are mixed into heterogeneous-ability groups to allow for maximum students' participation.

3.Choose Team Names. Have each group "brainstorm" a name for itself. Encourage the teams to name themselves using a packaging theme. Use these names throughout the activity.

4.Materials. Have a variety of materials available to the design engineers. Encourage students to bring materials from home to supplement the project.

5. Plan. Plan ahead for a launch area that can offer differing heights. There, the containers can be "tested" by dropping each until the most effective design is discovered.

6. Focus on Problem Solving. Encourage creative solutions.  Remind students that they need not be successful their first attempt. That is part of the problem-solving process. Provide a
place for them to "test-run" their designs before sharing them with the class.

7. Record Keeping. Have students list materials used, record principles applied, and discuss the effectiveness of packaging the egg for each "test-run."

8. Evaluation. Discuss the set of materials that was most effective in protecting the cargo. Suggest ways to improve that design.

9.Application. Consider the implication of proper protection to products that we can learn from space packaging. Visit a supermarket, and record the many different packaging designs.

Enhancing Other Concepts and Skills:

1. Reading Articles. Have students extend their study by collecting news articles that discuss "cargo" being launched into space. Display these articles and add new items to a poster entitled, "Shuttle Manifest!"

2. Math Problems. How much does the distance increase each second? When is the object traveling the fastest?
-Fill in the distance and speed for the 4th, 5th and 6th seconds?


Time Distance Speed
1st Second 4.9 meters 9.8 meters per second
2nd Second 14.7 meters 19.6 meters per second
3rd Second 24.5 meters 29.4 meters per second
4th Second
5th Second
6th Second

3. Industrial Application. Invite a packaging expert from a local industry, grocery store or technical school to share packaging principles with the class.

4. Brainstorm. List transported products that require special packaging. Discuss the possible career opportunities in the packaging industry. Elicit from students whether the need for packaging will increase or decrease as technology expands?

5. Past, Present and Future. Construct a timeline of packaging.  Record early, present, and projected packaging needs for our society. Consider "high tech" requirements of electronic and computer shipping requirements.