Egg Drop Device

Good design is often about effectively satisfying a set of constraints to achieve a desired outcome. Iterative prototyping gives designers a creative approach to discovering and satisfying the constraints for a design space.

The goal of this team-based assignment is to create a hand-made vessel capable of protecting a raw, store-bought medium-sized chicken egg—under constraints specified below— when dropped from the highest height possible. At the end of the assignment, we will use one class period to hold an official egg drop where your final prototypes will be tested, in accordance with the design constraints. The results will be recorded by both you and the TAs. Finally, your team will create a visual report with details about your final design concept and the lessons you learned through iterative prototyping.

Students will be randomly assigned to teams of 2-3 students on April 23rd.

Learning Goals

  • Improving your ability to sketch as a means of exploring design ideas
  • Demonstrating an understanding of physical design material properties
  • Developing a proficiency in rapid lo-fidelity prototyping and testing
  • Understanding how to identify and satisfy design constraints effectively
  • Visually documenting your design process and final deliverables


  • Lectures
    • Prototyping theory
    • Design Constraints
  • Materials
    • Construction materials will be provided. Your team will need to provide your own eggs for any testing that happens outside of lectures and sections.
  • Readings
    • McElroy on Prototyping for physical and digital products
    • Belle Beth Cooper on "Proof That Constraints Can Actually Make You More Creative"
    • Bob Sutton on "Want Some Creativity? Crank-up the Constraints"

Rules for Egg Drop Competition

Your team goal is to create a vessel that protects a raw egg from a fall onto a hard surface.

  • Your team will earn a score based on the height the egg survives. The higher it gets without breaking, the better your team score. We will test a single medium-sized egg from a height of 2 feet, 4 feet, 6 feet and so on until we reach our maximum drop height (TBD). The same egg will be used for each drop.
  • The landing zone will be a hard surface such as concrete, pavement, or brick. You are not allowed to alter the landing zone. If your vessel misses the landing zone, you will be allowed one more attempt at that height.
  • Your vessel must be constructed as a single unit, but you are allowed to have moving parts.
  • It must be possible to determine the condition of the egg after each drop test. The vessel should be designed so that the egg can be removed to check for cracks and reloaded.
  • In the final egg drop test, you will only have ~30 seconds between drops to demonstrate that your egg has survived and is ready for the next height. If the egg shows even a tiny crack, your score will be tabulated and you will not be allowed to drop from a higher distance. TAs will make note of final success height and the kind of damage that occurs on the last drop (e.g., complete splat vs. oozing out the side vs. tiny crack with no seepage).
  • No adhesive materials can be applied directly to the surface of the egg (such as wrapping tape or applying glue directly on the egg).
  • The approved list of materials and additional constraints will be revealed in class on Tuesday April 23rd. The materials may be modified anyway you see fit (cutting, bending, shaping, etc) as long as it adheres to the design constraints. Your team must work within these constraints with no exceptions.
  • Work within the following constraints:
    • Constraints will be listed here on April 23rd.

In general, please be respectful of your surroundings and only test your egg drop vessel in an area that will not do any harm to others. Clean up any debris or mess from your tests! Be safe and practice good judgement.

What to do

Stage 0 (In class on Thurs April 18th): Work with a small team to prototype and test a vessel concept during an in-class exercise. This will give you some initial exposure to the materials and testing procedure. Do not get too comfortable with your team or the specific materials you selected, as these will be assigned on April 23rd.

Stage 1 (due April 23rd): Individually produce at least ten sketches. In your own sketch book, ideate different potential forms and functions for an egg drop vessel. Your sketches might include notes with details about physical and material properties, environmental factors, and implementation notes. Keep a record of these sketches for your final deliverable and be ready to share your sketches with your assigned team.

Stage 2 (in class on April 23-25th): Teams, materials, and constraints will be revealed on April 23rd. Share your sketch concepts with your team and then collaboratively sketch at least 3 team designs for an egg drop vessel. Keep a record of team sketches for your final deliverable. Then, using the approved set of materials, build and test physical prototypes. A drop zone and raw eggs will be available all week during lectures and sections. Teams may continue to create and test prototypes outside of class, but the team must supply the eggs.

Stage 3 (Due at class time, 12:30pm on April 30): Informed by your sketching, prototyping and testing, create your final egg drop vessel using only those materials provided in the final construction set (handed out on April 25th). Careful not to lose or destroys any of the materials provided in the final set, as this will be the last set of materials before the final egg drop test. Be sure to document your tests using field notes, sketches, photographs, and video.

Stage 4 (Due by 11:59pm on April 30th): Create a 2-4 page final report that summarizes the final design, documents your team's prototyping process, and shares lessons learned. The first page should feature a photo of the final egg drop vessel with visual explanations of the key features, the success height recorded at the final testing period, your team's vessel's name, and all the teammates' names.

On subsequent pages, include sketches, prototype photos, and notes about your testing process and any preliminary results. Finally, reflect on what you learned about the egg drop design problem. What are the important environmental factors? How does your design account for these factors? How could your design be improved? What did you learn about prototyping? Finally, you may include an Appendix section (that extends beyond the 4-page limit) with additional sketches and photos that did not make it into your main narrative.

Keep in mind: this final report should be a well-designed, visually appealing artifact. Use what you learned from A1 and A2 about grid, progressive disclosure, color, image and type to design a multi-page layout that creates a consistent design language for your document.

To summarize key points for Stage 4:

- Page 1 highlights the design concept, vessel name (which you make up), outcome (height), and your names.

- Pages 2-4 explains your team's prototyping and testing process and what you learned about dropping eggs

- Visual design matters for this artifact

Final Deliverables

On Canvas, upload a single PDF named A3-Lastname1-Lastname2-Lastname3.pdf (e.g. A3-Dow-Palani-Barbosa.pdf) with your team's final report. You can and should collaboratively construct the final PDF deliverable, but only one person from your team needs to submit via Canvas as a "group submission".

Grading Rubric

Grades will be based on the following. Note that we will look holistically at your process, prototypes, and success. Your grade will not merely be a function of your success at protecting the egg:

  • Requirements. Does your team's vessel conform to and satisfy the requirements? Did the team only use approved materials in the appropriate quantities? Did the team work within all the constraints? Was the egg removable and reloadable so that we could inspect for cracks?
  • Performance. How high did the egg survive during the final egg drop testing period? What kind of damage occurred on the last drop where the egg "crashes"? Was the team's egg drop vessel carefully crafted or poorly constructed?
  • Novelty. How does your team's vessel compare to other approaches in class and online? Does the team offer a unique angle, or is it very similar to other designs? Does the team work creatively within the constraints provided?
  • Process. How broadly does the team explore alternative designs? How often does the team test different physical prototypes? How much did the team learn from their prototyping process? How deep and insightful are the team reflections on their process? Does the team provide insightful reflections about the egg drop design problem and the prototyping process?
  • Final report. Does the team report follow the guidelines outlined in Stage 4 above? Is the report engaging and follow good principles of visual communication (i.e., leverages an underlying grid across pages, provides a clear point of entry and progressive disclosure of information, creates a consistent design language throughout the document, etc.)?
  • Team. How effectively does the team work together? Does the team get along and does each member do her/his share of the work?