Experiments and Engineering Activities!!!

Make a Parachute!

A parachute is a device used to slow down the speed of falling objects. Make one with us, and see!

Materials:

Procedure:
  • Decorate the plastic squre you cut from the unused garbage bag with waterproof markers.
  • Cut the string into four 12-inch pieces. Never point the scissors towards your body. Tie a string to each of the four corners of the plastic. Make sure you tie the knots as tightly as you can.
  • Thread the other ends of the strings through the hole in the center of the spool. Thread them through the metal washer and tie them tightly around the washer as shown in the picture.
  • To launch the completed parachute, hold it by the center of the plastic square. Throw it up into the air as high as you can. The parachute will open up and float slowly to the ground. Try launching the parachute from high places, such as an upstairs window or the top of a hill. You can even launch it so that it will land on the other side of a fence or high wall.
plastic square

spool

What happened?

The force of gravity would ordinarily have pulled the washer down to the ground. However, the parachute increased the drag of the washer. Drag is what slows something down. The washer's drag is the force of the air pulling on it. The large surface area of the parachute slowed down the speed of the washer as it traveled to the ground.

More?

Try tying different objects to the strings instead of the washer. Do heavier objects make the parachute float down faster? Do any objects make the parachute stop working?

Reproduced with permission from 1990 Educational Insights, Spy Science, #34.