Brian Blum
May 24, 2018, Updated May 30, 2018

Researchers from Haifa’s prestigious Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have developed world-changing technology – from new methods for detecting lung disease to launching the next generation of synchronized nano-satellites.

But sometimes, the guys and girls at the cutting edge of science just wanna have fun.

And what’s more fun that dropping a raw egg from a 40-meter-high (131-foot) crane to see if it splats? Or in the case of the “Egg Copter X20” competition held last week on the Technion campus, to see if students can come up with ways so the eggs won’t break.

These contestants protected each egg individually for the 40-meter fall. Photo by Sharon Tzur, Technion Spokesperson’s Office

The egg-dropping extravaganza is part of the annual “Doctor Bob’s TechnoBrain” competition, which has been running since 1997 and was conceived by Neev-Ya Durban, then a student at the Technion’s Faculty of Aerospace Engineering. Durban wanted to enable his classmates and their families to “get away from their textbooks and computer screens and give them an opportunity for creative expression while coping with complex problems in a fun atmosphere.”

Durban was tragically murdered in 2003 during a mugging in Tel Aviv, but his competition lives on. His parents, Technion professors David and Rachel Durban, are part of the jury.

“Neev-Ya’s vision and dream has been fully accomplished,” said David Durban. “Today’s competition was heartwarming because what we saw was the essence of engineering.”

So how did the eggs do?

Fourteen teams competed this year; most of the eggs wound up cracked but a few teams came up with novel approaches to protect the yolk.

This egg-dropping team appropriately chose a yellow container. Photo by Sharon Tzur/Technion Spokesperson’s Office

First prize went to the Zimmerman family, led by 85-year-old Yishai Zimmerman from Kibbutz EinHarodIchud, who has participated with his family in five previous TechnoBrain competitions.

The Zimmermans conceived of a system in which four eggs rested in a sponge “nest” inside an empty water bottle with a parachute attached. After the 40-meter drop, three of their four eggs remained intact. For that, the team won a₪10,000 ($2,760) cash prize.

The Zimmerman family won first prize in the EggCopter X20 competition. From left, Ronen Atzili and Yishai Zimmerman with Prof. David Durban.Photo by Sharon Tzur/Technion Spokesperson’s Office

The second-place prize of ₪5,000 went to the Hakim family, who also rigged up a device of water bottles and parachutes. Two of the eggs survived the fall.

Technion students Max, Shir and Daniel came in third place even though their invention crash landed. But as three of the eggs miraculously survived, they won ₪3,000 for their offbeat effort.

The event was well attended with “hundreds of onlookers [holding] their breath after each landing,” the Technion said in a release.

Who’s Dr. Bob, by the way? That’s Dr. Robert Shillman, who did his graduate work at the Technion, and who funds the competition and prizes.

The competition was organized by Marina Minkin, a graduate student at the Technion Computer Science Department, and moderated by Prof. Irad Yavneh.

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