Distribute a set of identical resources to each team – one raw egg, twenty straws and a short strip of masking-tape.
The challenge for each team is to build a ‘vehicle’ which can safely transport an egg a distance of three metres (10′) when held above the floor and dropped.
Each team will be judged on engineering quality, efficiency of resource use, aesthetics and the survival of the egg.
Allow each team 30 to 45 minutes to build their vehicle.
When the time expires, test the integrity of each team’s vehicle one at a time.
How To Play Narrative
This is one of the all-time classic problem-solving activities. Ham up your presentation, and invite your group to have some fun too.
First, you’ll need to establish two or more small teams, of say, four to eight people. Each team will be given identical resources – a raw egg, twenty straws, and a short strip of masking tape.
The challenge is for each team to build a ‘vehicle’ around their egg so that it can safely travel a distance of three metres (10’). Why? Umm, connect this answer to your presentation (see Framing Ideas.) However, explain that the distance the egg will travel will necessarily be gravity-fed, ie it will be dropped from a height, and land with a thud on the ground.
Announce that each team’s vehicle will be judged on engineering quality, efficiency of resource use, aesthetics, and naturally, on the survival of the egg. Feel free to add other forms of criteria too.
Once all of the questions have been answered, and you have distributed the materials, declare that the clock is now ticking. Allow at least 30 to 45 minutes for each team to prepare their craft.
Finally, the program reaches a huge climax when each team returns from their laboratories and, under a veil of secrecy, submits their vehicle for testing.
Leading with shouts of “10, 9, 8, 7…” and so on, arrange to drop each vehicle from a height of 3 metres (10′) or so– one at a time (standing on a table works pretty well) – and await the results.
Typically, the egg will erupt with a fit of yellow and white splatter. Even a tiny flow of yolk will be sufficient for the crowd to go wild.
Sunny-side up, anyone?
Practical Leadership Tips
Like many group activities, you are encouraged to really ham the presentation of this exercise to the max! Develop whatever scenario you care to think of, but be committed and make it fun. Dressing in theme is especially worthwhile.
You’ll note that the equipment list suggests a large plastic sheet. If you don’t have an easily mop-able floor, then you’ll need this sheet to cover your landing platform.
You will need a hard or solid surface on which to drop the vehicles. Typically, a carpeted space will be too forgiving, unless you introduce a large wooden chopping-board as the landing platform.
Strictly speaking, the masking-tape is not permitted to touch or wrap around the egg. However, in the context of your program goals, if you’d like to applaud this level of ingenuity, don’t let me get in the way.
If you need to include eight or more people in your teams, simply add extra roles/tasks for them to complete, eg prepare a jingle, an advertising campaign, a short skit, etc.
From experience, it always worth checking the integrity of the egg (if possible) before you test its travel-worthiness. Groups have been known in the past to blow their eggs, to cook or hard-boil them, wrap them totally in tape, etc.
Note that while a team may score well on the ‘efficiency of resource use’ because they used, say, only half of their straws, if their vehicle fails to protect the egg, their overall score may suffer.
Many people regard the Great Egg Drop as a classic group initiative. Why? I think it’s because just love to see an egg break.
Alternative Resources: Add or substitute a variety of materials to those above, such as balloons, rubber bands, cotton wool, etc.
Great Egg Drop Marketing: Ask each group, as part of their overall objective, to prepare a short presentation to accompany the launch of their ‘vehicle.’ Distribute paper and pens to assist each team to develop their ‘marketing campaign.’ Points are further awarded for creativity, originality and believability of their spiel.
Take a look at Up The Challenge for a similar team activity that involves vehicles travelling up, not down.
Active problem-solving exercise with focus on roles.
Deeper get-to-know-you exercise for all size groups.
Useful Framing Ideas
Introduce yourself as a famous astro-physicist, and explain that you are seeking the best way for humans to land onto the surface of Mars. You plan to divide your group into competing teams of engineers, who will be charged with the responsibility of building a space-craft that will not only transport humans safely to Mars, but more importantly, help them land in one piece…
Or, introduce yourself as an internationally renowned car designer. Your teams represent a number of highly skilled car designing teams from around the world, and your job is to select which of their vehicles is the safest in which to travel. Understanding that the human body is very fragile, you have decided to challenge each of the world’s best car designers to protect a raw egg inside their vehicles…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this challenging team-based initiative:
What was the most challenging element of this task? Why?
Describe the process your group adopted to complete the exercise.
Did prior experience or other skills represent an asset to your group? What were they?
Knowing what you now know, what would you do differently next time?
How might the accomplishment of this task reflect the workings of real project teams?
What elements were the most useful to help your team succeed at working well together?
The inspiration for the Great Egg Drop, and many more great team-building activities, was sourced from The Bottomless Bag Again, by Karl Rohnke (now sadly out of print.)