The purpose of the experiment was so the students could learn more about the current head-injury debate happening in football.
Recent studies showed NFL players are much more likely to suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy than those who don’t play football. CTE is the degenerative disease believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head.
Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist, recently studied 111 brains from deceased NFL players between 23 and 80 years old. Of the brains studied, 110 were determined to have CTE.
Students researched helmets used in the NFL to build their own “helmet” to protect their egg when it was dropped from the roof of the school.
Teacher Stephanie Porter got the idea from when she was in high school.
“I graduated from Mt. Juliet High School, and I had a physics teacher in school who encouraged us to do lots of real life simulations and stuff like that,” said Porter. “An egg drop was one of the things she had us do, and I never forgot it. So I’m hoping that the things that [the students] learned not only came from the research they did, but the experience of making their helmet and dropping it off the roof. I hope it’s something that they do remember.”
Porter’s son actually suffered a concussion as a result of playing football when he was in middle school.
“His concussion gave me a lot of hands-on information regarding traumatic brain injuries and chronic traumatic encephalopathy,” said Porter. “With all the press about CTE in the last few years, with Frank Gifford dying and Aaron Hernandez most recently, it’s a really hot topic right now.”
Despite her son’s injury, Porter said he still plays football for his high school team. She said in doing research for the egg drop, her students came across a new product designed to guard against brain injuries. The product can be worn inside a football helmet and cushions each blow to the head.
“And we plan to purchase one for my ninth-grade football player,” said Porter. “Bones can heal and muscles can mend, but you only have one nugget to take you until the end.”
There were four groups of students who each worked as a team to design their own helmet. The week before the drop, they did a test run using only a Styrofoam cup, a baggie, rubber bands and cotton balls.
This week, students were given materials such as cotton and an empty milk carton and were also allowed to bring some from home to design their helmet.
Some used Styrofoam; some used duct tape; some even used carpet lining to create a soft container for the egg. They tried to make their final product look as much like a helmet as possible.
Carroll Oakland principal Jason Dunn climbed onto the roof where he dropped each of the helmets onto the concrete.
Of the four helmets designed, only one egg broke on impact. The other three were safe inside their helmets.
In talking about what they learned, students discussed the research they did on traumatic brain injuries, as well as CTE.