Parachute Experiment : Dive Into Aerodynamics with a Creative Twist

6 Min Read

The Parachutes activity is an engaging and hands-on that allows participants to explore the principles of aerodynamics and how different parachute designs affect the rate of descent. Participants will design and construct their own parachutes and then test them to see how well they slow down the fall of an object. Below is a step-by-step guide for conducting the Parachutes activity:

Materials Needed:

  1. Plastic bags or lightweight fabric (for example, tissue paper, coffee filters)
  2. String or yarn
  3. Scissors
  4. Tape
  5. Small objects to use as weights (for example, paperclips, small toys)
  6. Optional: Hole puncher (for making attachment holes in the parachute)
  7. Optional: Stopwatch or timer


  1. Introduction: Start by explaining the concept of parachutes and their importance in slowing down the descent of objects in the air. Discuss how air resistance (drag) affects the motion of falling objects.
  2. Parachute Design: Discuss different parachute designs, such as circular, square, or cross-shaped parachutes. Explain how the shape and size of the parachute affect its performance.
  3. Material Selection: Provide participants with plastic bags or lightweight fabric and let them choose the material they want to use for their parachutes.
  4. Construct Parachutes: Instruct participants to cut their chosen material into the desired parachute shape. They can use scissors to shape the fabric and tape to reinforce the edges if necessary.
  5. Attachment Points: If using fabric, participants can punch holes near the edges of the parachute and tie strings to create attachment points for the weight.
  6. Testing: Find a suitable location for testing the parachutes. Participants can stand on a chair or use a raised platform to drop their parachutes from a consistent height.
  7. Dropping the Parachutes: Attach a weight (paperclip or small toy) to each parachute, and then gently drop it from the same height for all tests.
  8. Observations: Have participants observe and record how each parachute behaves during the fall. They can note the descent rate and how well the parachute slows down the fall of the weight.
  9. Reflection and Discussion: Gather all participants for a group discussion. Ask them about their observations and which parachute designs worked best. Discuss the factors that contributed to the success of certain designs.
  10. Experiment with Modifications: Encourage participants to make modifications to their parachutes to see if they can improve their performance. They can experiment with different shapes, sizes, and attachment methods.
  11. Extension Activities: For more advanced participants, explore the mathematical concepts related to air resistance and terminal velocity in falling objects.
  12. Real-World Applications: Conclude the activity by discussing real-world applications of parachutes in various fields, such as skydiving, aerospace, and cargo transportation.

The Parachutes activity provides an opportunity for participants to engage in the scientific method, experiment with design modifications, and learn about the effects of air resistance. It encourages creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking while exploring aerodynamics and the practical applications of parachute design.

STEM Concept Explanation and Application
Science Concepts
Aerodynamics Understanding the principles of air resistance (drag) and how it affects the motion of falling objects.
Gravity Understanding the force of gravity and its role in pulling objects downward during their descent.
Materials Science Exploring the properties of different materials used in parachute construction and how they interact with air.
Technology Concepts
Parachute Design Introducing different parachute designs, such as circular, square, or cross-shaped, and how they affect descent.
Attachment Methods Exploring different methods for attaching strings or lines to the parachute for weight suspension.
Prototyping Creating prototypes of parachutes using various materials and design techniques.
Engineering Concepts
Problem-solving Encouraging participants to address design challenges and modify parachute designs for optimal performance.
Optimization Using engineering principles to improve parachute performance through design modifications.
Testing and Evaluation Conducting experiments and observing the performance of parachutes to determine their effectiveness.
Mathematics Concepts
Measurement Measuring the dimensions of parachute components and recording descent times for quantitative analysis.
Geometry Understanding the shapes and angles used in parachute design and how they contribute to performance.
Data Analysis Recording and analyzing data from parachute tests to compare performance and draw conclusions.

Parachutes activity. Each concept can be further explored and expanded based on the age, understanding, and grade level of the participants. Additionally, this activity can be a starting point for exploring more complex STEM topics related to fluid dynamics, advanced materials science, and mathematical modeling of falling objects. The activity encourages hands-on learning, critical thinking, and practical applications of scientific and engineering principles.

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