Potato chip challenge inspires D.C. students

WASHINGTON – The challenge: Mail a single Pringle potato chip without breaking it.

Two dozen 6th and 7th grade girls from Our Lady of Victory School in Northwest Washington teamed up to solve the problem with two dozen 9th and 10th graders from all-girls Elizabeth Seton High School in Bladensburg, Md.

It takes math and engineering skills to fabricate the packaging that could successfully protect the chip.

The girls from Our Lady of Victory visited Elizabeth Seton last week where they built their potato chip mailers, hoping materials including paper, wood, plastic and tape would provide the necessary shock absorption to keep their chips intact.

The experiments arrived Wednesday at the Northwest school and the 6th and 7th graders used Google Hangout on a laptop to link up with the girls at Elizabeth Seton, who watched from afar as the younger students opened the envelopes.

“Crumbs,” one disappointed 6th grader cried out as she opened her envelope. Her partner chimed in, “It’s nothing but big crumbs.”

Success came when 7th graders Lilly Leibel of Arlington and Siobhan Martinez of Silver Spring opened the envelope containing their shield-encased chip.

“It’s like, almost completely intact,” screamed Siobhan to the delight of her classmates and the computer-relayed cheers and applause from the girls at Elizabeth Seton.

Lilly later explained the materials used in making their successful potato chip carrier: “Index cards, popsicle sticks, coffee stirring straws and duct tape,” she said.

“We cut straws to the exact length of the top and bottom and we took the extra bits and shoved them underneath,” Siobhan explained.

“We learned from our mistakes,” explained Lilly. The first packaging they attempted, she says, “was a bit too compact.” “It took a bit of thinking,” Lilly added.

The potato chip challenge is meant to foster girl’s interest in math, science and engineering.

Both Lilly and Siobhan believe girls are underrated compared to boys when it comes to their abilities in science, math and engineering.

“Girls are better in engineering and stuff than boys can be,” Siobhan proclaimed. “I think we will probably learn faster,” she added.

However, Lilly has noticed there are differences between boys and girls.

“There’s definitely kind of like a contrast between boys and girls,” she says.

But Lilly agrees with Siohban’s conclusion, made more certain by their success in the potato chip challenge.

“Definitely, girls belong in engineering, Siohban declared.