Project brings 'egg-citement' to Hillcrest Elementary kids

"Hillcrest Elementary School fourth-graders knew what went up had to come down. Some of them just wished their class projects didn't have to come down so hard.In what has a become an annual rite of passage of sorts at the Oak Harbor school, students of two fourth-grade classes were instructed last week to create containers that would keep eggs from cracking. About 30 students built individual projectsTeacher Linda Strycharski, who has previous experience with the egg-drop program, said the students were specifically assigned to make egg armour, and encouraged to use their imaginations in the process.Still, said student Kiera McNamara, I didn't really understand what the teacher said. I thought you had to make it look like a spaceship. After she found out differently, McNamara opted to cover the egg entrusted to her in several layers of bubblewrap and stuff it in a small cardboard box. Using tape, she then adorned the box with a beaded bracelet a friend gave to her.Fourth-grader Stephen Horning unveiled his eggs-quisite invention, a parachuted Pringles Potato Chips can. Horning told how he packed his egg inside the can with two balloons and Teddy bear stuffing. He taped the ends of the can with what looked like duct tape, and then attached a plastic parachute, made from a large black garbage bag.Horning admitted his 15-year-old brother helped design the parachute - but that didn't matter, since his way didn't work so well.Unlike past years - when eggs were dropped off ladders, roofs and even fire trucks - the protected off-white projectiles this time were lifted and cast off by members of a Navy search and rescue team, who flew their rescue helicopter to the Northwest Second Avenue school event.Strycharski said the six search-and-rescue crew members, based out of Whidbey Naval Air Station, had visited the school a few months earlier as part of the fifth grade's personal survival curriculum. During that first visit, the search-and-rescue crew demonstrated basic survival skills and explained what they did in their jobs.When the helicopter touched down last week, the crew made a grand entrance by circling the chopper over the school and then repelling down ropes onto the school playfield before the pilot landed the aircraft.A couple of hours later, after several classes were given guided tours of the H-3 Sea King helicopter, the crew set off again, with two large plastic bags filled with egg projects.Before the special voyage, a handful of the students told the search-and-rescue crew to be especially mindful of the parachuted egg containers, many of which needed to be untied before flying into the wild blue yonder.No problem, said crew member Ken Mazer. He contended none of the special directions were too complicated to follow and that all of the projects would be given special attention.Then, in a powerful burst of wind, engine fumes and baseball diamond dust, the helicopter rose and stopped about 100 feet above the excited and cheering students.Well, actually, they were all excited and cheering, until the eggs-periments were dropped - most of which plummeted to the ground without deploying their parachutes.A few of the students gazed up with disappointment as the helicopter lifted away into the light-blue sky.McNamara's box was one a handful of projects that burst open on impact. She seemed to take the misfortune of her container in stride. Carson McKole, however, was another story.With disgust in her voice, she said she knew why her parachute had not opened and her egg exploded. They didn't do anything, she lamented.McKole had wrapped her egg in paper, packed and taped it inside a tissue box and then attached a plastic parachute to it. It was clear to her that, despite their good intentions, the SAR crew had not removed the rubber band that secured the chute to the box.In fact, it appeared the chutes on several of the projects - jettisoned from the helicopter bay in rapid succession - were left securely bound to their respective payloads.I mean, it would have worked ... I just would have liked them to do what they were supposed to, she said. I'm mad.McKole said she had tested her invention several times by throwing it from a two-story building. It worked just fine then, she said.The fourth-graders ran to the drop site to assess the health of their contraptions.It was apparently planned before the event that the classes wouldn't officially check if their eggs survived until Monday. After all, it was past 3 p.m. and time to go home.It was learned late Tuesday that about 50 percent of the eggs survived the tumble.Horning, inventor of the Pringles parachute, was one of those who didn't have to wait for the fate of his project over the weekend. One of the ends of his can was blown open and the whites and yolk of his egg were splattered all over the white stuffing like a popped pustule. Still, Horning was upbeat about the outcome. The parachute opened at the very last minute, he proudly proclaimed. It almost worked! "

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