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JPL Annual Invention Challenge - ENTRY 39
A) What did your team think of the challenge?
This was our first time entering this challenge, and we had no idea how competitive it would be. Our focus, centered on the mechanism not being in contact with the ball after landing on the pan, as well as cushioning the landing so as not to break the egg. Therefore, we were afraid to be too fast. Also, getting a bowling ball, in and of itself, was a challenge.

B) What ideas did your team consider?
We considered a pneumatic approach, where the ball would trigger a lever that would release a column of air to cushion the fall. But it was overly complicated and we didn't have the equipment or time to try it.

C) What was your final design?
We decided that simpler was better and we decided to replicate the method in which sea turtles lay eggs, by using a neoprene chute to cushion the fall.

D) What was your testing process and how did you improve?
Gaby was in charge of putting the ball in the exact same location and Becky timed the critical time the ball stayed in the chute. We realized that the bigger the hammer the faster the ball took off.

E) What were your feelings or experiences at the JPL contest?
It was exciting to see all the schools involved and I would certainly recommend that Ramona (the catholic high school that my daughters attend) should get involved next year. It was also interesting to see that so many groups had similar ideas. Working in a bubble when you are coming up with the idea, gives you no frame of reference. We thought our time was excellent, but once we were at the challenge we saw that it was actually an average time.

F) How would your team improve your design?
We would have focused on developing a way to set the ball in faster motion and spend more time calibrating to the point of minimal friction needed to keep the ball from breaking the egg. Hind sight we realized that we were slowing the ball down too much in order to protect the egg.

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For a photo gallery of the 2004 event, click here.
For the event rules please click here.

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