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Scheherazade in Blue Jeans
freelance alchemist
Project: Pringles 
8th-Oct-2009 03:09 pm
Elayna - Oct08
Hi! This is a guest post by Elayna.

First of all, thank you so much for all of your comments about the accident. I'm kind of achey, but much better than expected. Having staples in my head is weird!

So I'm back in school, and I have an awesome physics project. Even better - I asked my teacher if I could get help figuring this out, and he said yes. Which is great because half of my Facebook friends are smart adults! And Mom pointed out that she has lots of engineer friends, so we'll ask here too.

I have to mail five regular-sized Pringles, in the lightest package possible, to my physics teacher. Without breaking any of the chips.

The chips cannot be stacked. Any flavor is acceptable, but they can't be ridged or mini-Pringles. I cannot coat them with anything to make them stronger.

If they break coming out of the package (I'll be unpacking them in class), that counts as breaking in transit.

My idea is carving a piece of styrofoam (Mom recommends craft foam or florist foam instead) to make individual Pringle cradles. Top and bottom, like how electronics get packed, and sealing the top and bottom together with packing tape. But since I have permission to get help and advice, it seems silly to not to!

So! Engineers! What would you do?

Thank you so much!

-- Elayna

(PS from shadesong: If you are vehemently opposed to helping kids with homework, just scroll on by. But they were specifically told they could seek help. :) )
(Deleted comment)
8th-Oct-2009 07:28 pm (UTC) - Re: Define coating,
Problem is, water would dampen them and they could tear when she unpacks them.
8th-Oct-2009 07:28 pm (UTC)
Not an engineer, but a post office guru...get insurance on package. That way, if it breaks... it's the post office's fault!
(that's a joke, haha!)

Glad you are feeling better, Elayna!

And good luck with the project...I'm going to be checking back to see what ideas appear. I'm curious now...
8th-Oct-2009 07:29 pm (UTC)
Oh I love blaming the post office!!!!! Very clever!
8th-Oct-2009 07:29 pm (UTC)
I think putting them each in baggies filled with styrofoam peanuts and then making some sort of lightweight rigid thing around them would distribute shock better. Look at what UPS does. Packages in packages, and as much shock absorption/distribution as possible. Having foam things carved in the shape of the Pringle would be too much surface area contact, too easy for a bump to break it.

I'm not an engineer, but I do send things through the mail a lot.
8th-Oct-2009 07:30 pm (UTC)
she could always carve the foam out and put her pringles in there then shake them viciously back and forth to check impact...
8th-Oct-2009 07:31 pm (UTC)
Do they have to be edible upon unwrapping them? If not...maybe encase them in a clear resin of some kind? Like bugs get encased in amber!
8th-Oct-2009 07:33 pm (UTC)
No coating them with anything allowed, alas!
8th-Oct-2009 07:34 pm (UTC)
Hm. Can you not stack them at all, or cannot stack them all together?

If you can stack them some, but not entirely... I'd go with your Pringle cradle idea, just slightly oversized Pringle-shaped cradles in a long tube form... which would stack together. (So you'd have... the bottom from florist foam, then a hollow for a chip, then a longer span of foam, then a hollow for a chip... repeated.)

Then I'd take THAT whole tube and suspend it tightly inside pantyhose... which would be attached to the sides of a large-ish box... giving it the space to bounce around without touching anything.

Alternatively, you could do the same thing with the cradles, if you cannot stack them... though you'd need a really big box.

(The pantyhose thing works to keep eggs from breaking when mailed/dropped/etc. If you like the idea at all, I can give more details of what I mean... text is a hard form in which to explain it.)
8th-Oct-2009 07:37 pm (UTC)
The project form says: "Chips cannot be stacked. They must be placed side-by-side, edge-on-edge. Any rotation of the package that makes the chips assume a stacked configuration will be disqualified."

What you describe *might* be okay?
8th-Oct-2009 07:34 pm (UTC)
Pringles will break if they rattle around, custom holders will prevent that.

Don't tape the foam up too tight though - too much pressure and and imperfectly carved holder will cause breakage.

Make the holders as thin as you can then tape them to the bottom of the shipping box.

BTW -- when do your staples come out? They'd be awesome as part of a Halloween costume.
8th-Oct-2009 07:38 pm (UTC)
A week from tomorrow. :)
8th-Oct-2009 07:35 pm (UTC)
I'm not an engineer, but I had projects like this in art school. Fun stuff, helps work your creative problem solving muscles.

I might actually suggest you steer clear of florist foam--it's light, true, but it tends to compress far too easily when any pressure is applied. Try poking your finger at it and see. I think it would crush the chips.

You might try another kind of foam that will keep them as still as possible within the outer package--for instance, memory foam (I've got a few scraps if you need it) is dense but soft.

I'm not sure about the material of the outer package, but going with something that distributes force evenly--round shapes, for instance--might help.

I'll be curious to hear about your solution!
8th-Oct-2009 07:38 pm (UTC)
Memory foam sounds great!
8th-Oct-2009 07:36 pm (UTC)
I saw this on a really old tv show once, when some characters had to drop and egg in a box out of a window without breaking the egg.

Cut a length of pantyhose, place the Pringle inside it, and secure each end of the pantyhose to the inside walls of a box, stretched tight.

Of course, it only worked with an egg on a tv show 20 years ago, so who knows if it's actually a good idea or not.

Is there a due date? Can you do a test mailing, and send a Pringle to yourself?
8th-Oct-2009 07:39 pm (UTC)
Due date is October 24. Definitely test-mailing to myself, if only so I can practice unpacking them safely!
8th-Oct-2009 07:38 pm (UTC)

I'm glad that you're OK!
(And, alas, I'm a biologist rather than an engineer ^_^ )
8th-Oct-2009 07:41 pm (UTC)
It's possible to safely ship fully iced cakes using popcorn as a packing medium. I suggest a layer of popcorn, a layer of pringles and another layer of popcorn in a small (VHS-Cart-sized) priority mail box. everything tumbles out when the zip-strip is pulled.

Nothing preventing you from testing this (or any solution) out first by mailing it to yourself...

If you're set on building cradles, try spray-in-insulation foam available at Home Despot. Saran around the pringles, foam top and bottom.

Edited at 2009-10-08 07:43 pm (UTC)
8th-Oct-2009 07:46 pm (UTC)
Seconding the spray in insulation idea; I'd wrap it in bubble wrap after that.
8th-Oct-2009 07:46 pm (UTC)
Step one: Make a boal of jell-o.

Step two: sink pringles into jell-o before it sets.

Then mail the jell-o, in tupperware.
8th-Oct-2009 08:27 pm (UTC)
Unpacking would be the tricky part.
8th-Oct-2009 07:47 pm (UTC)
Amy says "A lightweight, shock-absorbent substance inside a rigid shell. If you had unlimited funds, you'd use aerogel, but it's more expensive per ounce than gold. Of course, it's also exceedingly light."
8th-Oct-2009 07:52 pm (UTC)
Also, stale pringles will not shatter as readily as crisp pringles. Leave the can open for a day or two in a damp environment before you pack 'em. :)
8th-Oct-2009 07:53 pm (UTC)
Maybe I'm just *that* slacker kid...but I'd just put them in a shoebox surrounded by peanuts. Maybe wrapped in press-n-seal or inside baggies just to make finding them easier.

Course my only equivalent experience was egg-racers and I sucked at that one.
8th-Oct-2009 08:04 pm (UTC)
I'm going with the popcorn contingent.
8th-Oct-2009 08:13 pm (UTC)
I asked my dad and my sister, who do actually know about engineering, though possibly not the right kind. Haven't heard from them yet.

I did the egg drop experiment in my high school physics class, and florist's foam was great for that. Should also work well for pringles. Just be sure to test the pringle compartment(s) thoroughly to make sure they properly accommodate the chips.
8th-Oct-2009 08:23 pm (UTC)
Are you allowed to re-define "Pringles"?

I mean, Pringles are pressed potato starch. Could you make a Pringle mold at school, grind the pringles to powder, mail them ground, and re-form them at the other end?
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