Hands-on Activity: Design a Parachute
Educational Standards :
Learning Objectives (Return to Contents)
Materials List (Return to Contents)
Introduction/Motivation (Return to Contents)
What is the purpose of a parachute? What is the role of a parachute in skydiving?
Imagine you are jumping out of a plane 10,000 feet in the air. What type of material would you want your parachute to be made of and what size would you want it to be?
The design of a parachute is very important, especially in an extreme sport such as skydiving because someone's life is dependent on the parachute functioning properly. Engineers thoroughly test the materials and designs of parachutes to ensure that they open properly and reliably, and are strong enough to withstand the air resistance needed to slow skydivers to safe landing speeds.
Procedure (Return to Contents)
A parachute is an umbrella-shaped device of light fabric used especially for making a safe jump from aircraft. Due to the resistance of air, a drag force acts on a falling body (parachute) to slow down its motion. Without air resistance, or drag, objects would continue to increase speed until they hit the ground. The larger the object, the greater its air resistance. Parachutes use a large canopy to increase air resistance. This gives a slow fall and a soft landing.
A history of parachutes, plus good pictures: http://www.parachutehistory.com/
Explanation of free fall and air resistance with diagrams (Newton's second law): http://www.physicsclassroom.com/Class/newtlaws/u2l3e.cfm
Explanation of forces on a falling object with air resistance: http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/K-12/airplane/falling.html
With the Students
Investigating Questions (Return to Contents)
Assessment (Return to Contents)
Activity Extensions (Return to Contents)
Copyright© 2005 by Worcester Polytechnic Institute including copyrighted works of other educational institutions; all rights reserved.
Supporting Program (Return to Contents)Center for Engineering Educational Outreach, Tufts University
Last Modified: December 12, 2013