How Skills USA Provides Real-Life Experiences: Helmet Safety

I’m not really a football person. Why I created a football helmet project, I don’t know, but I wanted a problem that was very true to life, not just the common egg drop that students might have done in elementary school. 

My name is Amy Hamilton, and I am a Technology and Engineering Teacher at Polk County School Board. I developed a cross-curriculum project with the National Egg League, NEL for short. The project was “simple”, make a helmet to protect a swinging egg from cracking against a wall. The overall goal of the project, have students work on a real-world engineering problem and to get them excited about STEM in the classroom

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Redesigning The Traditional Egg Drop Project

To create enthusiasm about the project, we chose a problem that aligned with their interests: football. The kids had to create a helmet that would protect an egg when it was swung from a pendulum and hit the wall.  I fabricated the pendulum the eggs would swing from.  To really ensure the project was as real-life as possible, I had a former student, who is now an engineer, help build parts of the problem. She also came in and spent an entire day talking to students about what it was like to be an engineer and how they think. We really wanted to get students out of silo-style teaching, so the National Egg League provided an opportunity for a cross-curriculum project. We had social studies teachers teaching the history of football helmets, science teachers teaching what a pendulum is and the science behind Newton’s Laws, and math teachers helping with the formulas for swing and inertia. It is a challenge to help 6th through 8th graders understand this higher-level math. And then, of course, they did the physical helmet construction in my class. 

Solidworks For Students

The approach to the construction was interdisciplinary as well. The students had to use the 3D experience platform to create some part of the container (aka helmet) that the egg would sit in. For some kids, it was just the device that they were going to use to hook the helmet and egg to the pendulum. Other kids went all out and built quite a bit of the container on the 3D experience platform, and it was really interesting to see them manipulate it. Some of my students who had Solidworks experience used that. And then, of course, we used all the paper and scissors and glue and everything else. 

With my 6th graders, I showed them a shape to start with in Solidworks. They could just work with that organic shape, or they could pull and stretch and do what they wanted with it. They literally worked on the NEL project for over a month. They were just bombarded with it. But did they learn about the science and math, and engineering that goes behind creating a helmet? Oh yeah.

Outside of The Classroom: SkillsUSA And Beyond

Their dedication to the in-class project paid off. A group of my students got to go to Nashville to compete at SkillsUSA. This whole project was about reinforcing real-world experiences and it culminated at the College Football Hall of Fame. Along the way, a student asked if we could make a stop at the Hall of Fame. I’m not a football person, but I said, “You want to go? We’re going!” Turns out, there is a whole exhibit on football helmets in the museum. The kids were looking at it, and they were like, “Oh, yeah. We learned about that!” It was so cool because we did that project in October, and the visit was in June. The knowledge and theories they gathered making a helmet for an egg came full circle in a real-life way with football helmets.   

The Future of “The National Egg League”

The National Egg League and other associations are crucial for real-world learning opportunities in classrooms. Getting kids of all ages engaged in learning with hands-on projects. They provide the opportunity for collaboration with other teachers and studies. Pro tip: to make your school’s program sustainable, save every teacher’s documents and notes on the project.  Note things that went well and things that could be improved. Organize and save it for future teachers to add to it and make it better for the students each year.

Interested in using Solidworks for students in your classroom? We’re here to help.