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Can you drop an egg without breaking it? Try it with this parachute challenge
If you throw an egg up into the air, chances are it will come back down and make a big mess.
Parachutes help slow down a falling object to give it a soft landing. They are a great way to give a delicate object, like an egg, a safe ride from a high spot.
Try this activity to harness the power of physics and air resistance to develop different parachute designs to discover a safe way to deliver an egg to the ground.
What you need:
- Plastic or foam cups (7 or 9 oz)
- Plastic garbage bag
- Raw eggs
- Masking tape
- Measuring tape or a yardstick
- Hole punch
- Stopwatch or timer
First, prepare your egg
1. Prepare the egg cradle. Use a hole punch to make four holes in the top of a cup.
2. Take a few tissues and wad them up before putting them in the bottom of the cup.
3. Place an egg in the cup on top of the balled-up tissues. Then add a few more crumpled tissues and put masking tape across the top of the cup.
Then, make your parachute
1. Make a parachute to test out of a plastic garbage bag. Use scissors to cut a square out of the bag.
2. Cut four equal lengths of string. Tie a piece of string to each corner of the garbage bag square, then attach the four loose ends of the strings to the cup.
Finally, hypothesize and experiment
1. Predict if the egg has a chance of surviving a fall from 10 to 12 feet.
2. Test your parachute by carefully dropping it from a height as you hold it from the top center of the parachute.
3. Did your egg break? Make changes to the design to prevent any breaks the next time.
4. Challenge yourself to improve your design or try three different sized parachutes to see which one works the best! Time each parachute’s flight and record the data. (Try starting with 10″ x 10″, 20″ x 20″, and 30″ x 30″, but feel free to experiment!)
- Why do you think some parachutes fell faster than others?
- What improvements would you make to your design with more time?
The natural force of gravity pulls objects toward Earth.
When a parachute falls to Earth, or is pulled down by gravity, air resistance below the parachute pushes against it, slowing it down.
When unfurled, the parachute has a lot of surface area. This means the larger the parachute, the slower it falls. Each parachute accelerates toward the ground until the amount of force from air resistance is equal to the pulling force of gravity.
Keep learning with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach
This activity was adapted from 4-H STEM Lab and Science Fun with Physics (c) 2016 The Ohio State University.
To get your child involved in fun learning opportunities, check out our upcoming summer day camps, 4-H Clubs, and more! Visit www.extension.iastate.edu/linn/4h to learn more.
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in Linn County helps build a strong Iowa by engaging Iowans in research, education and extension experiences to address current and emerging real-life challenges. Linn County Extension Office website: extension.iastate.edu/linn