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Egg Challenge 6.0: Top Fun Maveregg

(Probably not) Coming soon to a theatre near you! Dr Benjamin Woods

The goal: land safely on the Eggcraft Carrier (Editor’s note: this image does not depict a safe landing). Baring that, survive the Eggjection Seat. James Griffith

The winning team “Eggs-Files” with their out-of-this-world creation. James Griffith

28 November 2022

Rebooted Bristol Composites Institute PhD student egg challenge flies to new heights

Traditions and shared experiences are the glue that hold our society together – the matrix that connects and solidifies the very fibre of our composite being, if you will. At the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Composites Science, Engineering and Manufacturing (CoSEM CDT) in the Bristol Composites Institute, one such tradition, dating back to 2015, has become a highlight of the academic calendar. We speak of course of the vaunted Egg Challenge, an erstwhile annual engineering engagement eggtravaganza. A somewhat silly (but not supercilious) team-based design/build/test exercise where PhD students must build a device from materials of questionable quality (spaghetti, paper, hot glue, pipe cleaners, etc.) that can protect their precious, uncooked egg from an onslaught of wanton wreckage doled out by whatever diabolical device the organisers devise each year.

Or so it was, until the pandemic put pause to popular perennial plans. Indeed, it has been three long years since Splatman took on the Yolker. It’s hard to believe it’s been so long, especially since we are still sporadically finding scattered fragments of shattered shells. But as the world is returning to a new normal, so must the Egg Challenge. Choosing a theme for this year was especially difficult though, given just how much has happened in the interim. Ultimately, this rebooted event looked to kindle warm fuzzy feelings of yesteryear, so Dr. Benjamin Woods, Chief Content Creation Consultant at Egg Challenge Enterprises, looked to a certain rebooted 1980’s high flying jet pilot cheesy masterpiece (which shall not be named explicitly to avoid the Danger Zone of international copyright law).

Unfortunately, the organisers never actually got around to seeing the new movie, so the challenge was actually just based on the original movie (what a maverick move!). It directly recreated one of the most harrowing, gut wrenching, moments in modern film: when Maveregg and Goose eject from their F-14 Tomcat after entering an unrecoverable flat spin. This created an event in two acts – in the first instance the students had to build an egg pod and an aircraft to fly their eggs back to the safety of an Eggcraft Carrier stationed in an undisclosed location off the Atlantic coast. If they could land on the carrier with their egg intact, then job done, Bob’s your egguncle, and we all go home. If they missed however, then the second act began. For this they placed their protective pods into a spring loaded Eggjection Seat, which was then triggered to send them crashing through the canopy and up into the air – before the inevitable fall back to earth.

The seven randomly assigned teams used their collective craftiness to craft their crafts from craft materials, with a very wide range of approaches pursued. Parachutes, spaghetti/hot glue composites, and dodgy paper airplanes abounded. Their designs were algorithmically assessed on their ability to minimise mass, get close to the carrier, come up with corny team names, and above all – survive. With final scores ranging from -435.68 to +1593.76 points, the competition was very successful at weeding out the top guns from the dropouts. While three of the seven teams were able to keep their eggs alive, the winning team flew past everyone else with an out-of-this-world flying saucer. By designing their device to embrace the flat spin, they were able to fly more accurately and gently: and were the only team to successfully land on the carrier. They also created a wheat fibre, gluten matrix composite brim for their saucer by soaking spaghetti in otherwise perfectly good coffee then squeezing and consolidating it into curved bundles. Was it clever? Definitely. Did it work? Well… it certainly didn’t hurt.

And that’s true of the entire event really: as a way to have a bit of fun while meeting people and doing hands on engineering, it certainly didn’t hurt. We can’t wait to see what nefarious plans hatch next year!

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Further information

The CoSEM CDT (established in 2019) has evolved from the highly successful and established ACCIS CDT (2014-2024) to address exciting doctoral training opportunities for multidisciplinary composite materials engineering and manufacture.

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