Designing a Parachute

ACTIVITY HEADER

 

 

 

Name of Activity Designing a Parachute
Author STOMP
Keywords parachute, string, weight, target, test, materials, air resistance
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9+
Time 1 Hour Total
Brief Description Students will select one type of paper for their parachute (i.e. tissue paper, napkin, paper towel, etc.) based on what they think will work best. The students will make a parachute with the paper and string and attach a weight. The students will then test their parachute.
Lesson Objectives: To learn about air flow and materials.
Materials Needed: Tissue paper
Napkins
Construction paper
Newspaper
Paper towels
String
Tape
1/4 lb Weights (a few batteries tied together would also work)
Preparation and Set Up: - Arrange students into groups.
- Distribute materials.
Necessary Background Vocabulary:
Air resistance
Procedure
  1. Explain the concept of air resistance to the class.
    1. Air resistance is the force that acts on anything moving through the air. It is not very heavy so humans don’t notice it much. Without air resistance things would fall faster than they do. The more surface area an object has the more air resistance affects it. This is why parachuters use wide light materials to slow them down as they fall.
  2. Have students cut a circle with a 6 inch radius of a paper of their choice.
  3. Have students cut 8 12 inch pieces of string and tape them at equal distances around the edge of the canopy.
  4. Tape the other end of the string to the weight.
  5. Drop the parachutes from a decided height and see if it works.
  6. Repeat steps 2 – 5 with all the different papers.
  7. Discuss the activity as a class. Ask the students:
    1. What material worked best for the parachutes? Why?
    2. What didn’t work as well? why?
    3. What changes would improve your design?
    4. What about a larger or smaller canopy?
    5. What would happen if you added more weight?
Extensions: Take the paper material that worked best and test different sized parachutes.
Make parachutes out of different materials.
Have a competition to see what parachute can land most gently.
Reference 1 http://sites.tufts.edu/stompactivitydatabase/files/formidable/aarongolf1.doc
Reference 2 http://sites.tufts.edu/stompactivitydatabase/files/formidable/Justin-2-STOMP1.doc
Reference 3 http://sites.tufts.edu/stompactivitydatabase/files/formidable/Margules-Obstacle-2-STOMP1.doc
Reference 4 http://sites.tufts.edu/stompactivitydatabase/files/formidable/Melissa1.doc
Reference 5 http://sites.tufts.edu/stompactivitydatabase/files/formidable/Mini-Golf-DiCarlo-2-STOMP1.doc

2 Responses to “Designing a Parachute”

  1. Avatar of Amanda  Rock Amanda Rock says:

    We used this activity for 5th graders and allowed them to use one material at a time to build the parachute that could fall the slowest and as straight down as possible, by putting an X on the ground and timing the fall as we dropped it while standing on a chair.
    We gave the students a table to fill out with their material, time, and distance from the X. The materials we had were paper, newspaper, styrofoam plates, tin foil, felt, and plastic sheeting, and string, tape, and pipe cleaners.
    Here is the powerpoint that we used to teach about air resistance, friction, drag, terminal velocity, and free falling:
    https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/19FLwEpx0FF_AqzGBuK0pYAJstfuv8YyCR1DllrFfHXQ/edit?usp=sharing

    The students learned that bigger lighter parachutes fell slower because they caught more air, but ones with more weight hanging from the parachute fell straighter. We taught them about how real parachutes have an opening at the top to direct the flow of air so they fall straighter.

  2. Avatar of Emily  Naito Emily Naito says:

    We used this activity for kindergarteners. We gave each group a Lego box “spaceship” along with a variety of materials (paper, string, tape, rubber bands, plastic grocery bag). They were challenged to make something that would prevent the spaceship from breaking upon impact. If they completed that challenge, then they were encouraged to make it fall as slowly as possible. They really liked the story and worked hard to protect the Lego people in the spaceship.

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