116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Parachutes help slow down a falling object to give it a soft landing. They are a great way to give a delicate object a safe ride from a high spot.
If you've ever dropped an egg, you know that it easily breaks when it falls, and it makes a big mess! In this activity, you'll learn how 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'll need:
Plastic or foam cups (7 or 9 ounce)
Plastic garbage bag
Measuring tape or yardstick
Stopwatch or timer
1. Prepare the egg cradle. Use a hole punch (or scissors with adult help) to make four holes in the top of a cup. Then take a few tissues and wad them up before putting them in the bottom of the cup.
2. Make a parachute to test out of a plastic garbage bag. Use scissors to cut a square out of the bag. 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.
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 each cup. Predict if the egg has a chance of surviving a fall from 10 to 12 feet.
4. Test your parachute by dropping it from a height (be careful) as you hold it from the top center of the parachute. (If any eggs break on the landing, make changes to the design to prevent any breaks the next time.)
After you've finished your experiment, 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. (We recommend trying sizes: 10' x 10,' 20' x 20,' and 30' x 30' but allow kids to experiment!)
When you're done, reflect:
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.
This activity was adapted from Science Fun with Physics (c) 2016 The Ohio State University. 4-H at Home Activity: 4-h.org/about/4-h-at-home/parachute-away/
To get your child involved in fun learning opportunities, check out Clover Kids (grades K-3), 4-H (grades 4-12), Lego Teams, and hands-on educational kits for checkout at extension.iastate.edu/linn/4h
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. The 4-H Youth Development program empowers youth to reach their full potential through youth-adult partnerships and research-based experiences. Linn County Extension Office website: extension.iastate.edu/linn