Designing a Parachute





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
Construction paper
Paper towels
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
  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
Reference 2
Reference 3
Reference 4
Reference 5

Mousetrap Building, Testing, and Redesigning





Name of Activity Mousetrap Building, Testing, and Redesigning
Author Terry Greene, Merredith Portsmore, Abe Gissen
Keywords mousetrap, LEGO, sculpture, test, evaluate, redesign, prototype, engineering design process
Subject Non-LEGO
Grade Level K, 1, 2, 3
Time 4 Hours Total
Brief Description Students will construct a prototype of a part of the Mousetrap LEGO sculpture. They will test, evaluate, and redesign the part.
Lesson Objectives: To gain experience with and build an understanding of the steps of the engineering design process.
Materials Needed: LEGO Team Challenge kits for each group of 2 – 4
Computer running ROBOLAB
IR tower
MINDSTORMS for schools using ROBOLAB manual (in kits)
Designing a Mousetrap Sculpture Response Sheet

Mousetrap Game by Milton Bradley
Poster of the design process

Various kinds of balls (tennis, golf, marbles, etc.)
Twine, string, or rope
Extra LEGO pieces for building, LEGO people, LEGO animals
Paper, tape, cardboard, oaktag, markers

Preparation and Set Up: Gather necessary materials.
Designate a spot in the classroom for project storage.
Make enough copies of the worksheet (attached) for every student in the class.
Arrange students into groups of 2 – 4.
Distribute necessary materials.
Necessary Background Teachers should review the engineering design process so that they can emphasize the process in class (see attached document).


  1. Begin by asking the small groups to sit next to each other.
  2. Review the charts form last class in which each team agreed to build of the parts of the Mousetrap Sculpture.
  3. Give each student a copy of the “Designing a Mousetrap” Worksheet.
  4. Explain that before any building starts, engineers draw and write their ideas down so that they can come back to them later in the project.
  5. Explain that the groups will be completing the worksheets together, each writing their ideas down.
  6. When students have completed the worksheet, review it with the team and save them later for review.
  7. Let students begin building.
  8. Check in with the groups at the start of the class. Help direct groups that are having trouble. Give them building ideas.
  9. Half way through the project have a check with the while class, setting clear time limits on finishing the project.
  10. Decide as a class the order of the parts of the mousetrap.
  11. Brainstorm how to connect the different parts.
  12. Set a timeline for the parts to be completed and for the presentation.
Reference 1buildtestredesign.pdf
Reference 21.doc
Reference 3
Reference 4
Online Reference(s),

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