Learning how to create a parachute to safely drop an egg can spark a student's interest in physical forces like gravity and air resistance. Air resistance is basically friction with gas particles, which can slow down the speed of a falling object. Parachutes work on this idea, and this experiment is designed to show how air resistance can be used to safely drop an egg from 10 ft. or higher. Many aspects of this project can be changed for variables, but the main one is the size of the parachute. Determine whether larger parachutes work more efficiently than smaller ones.
- Plastic kitchen bin liners
- 3 sandwich bags
- 3 eggs
- 12 20-inch pieces of string
- Scotch tape
Cut three squares out of plastic trash bags. Each square should be cut with different dimensions to test whether larger parachutes are more effective. Cut one square so it is 10 inches square, one so it is 20 inches square and the final one 30 inches square. Use a ruler to ensure that these measurements are precise. Cut the squares using scissors.
Tie a piece of string around the corners of the three squares. Tie the knot as close to the end of the string as possible. Put a small piece of Scotch tape on the corners of each square. This helps to strengthen the link between the plastic and the string, making it easier to create a working parachute. You will then be left with three parachutes that have four pieces of string dangling from each, held in place by tape and the original knot.
Tie the other ends of the string to the two corners of a sandwich bag near the opening. Tie two pieces of string to each corner. Reinforce the connections with Scotch tape in the same way as before. Do this on each of the three parachutes, so you have a large bin liner square attached to a sandwich bag with string. The sandwich bag will hold your egg.
Put an egg in each sandwich bag, and find a suitable location to drop the parachute. Drop the parachutes from at least 10 ft high to get the best result. Predict which parachute will work best. Understand that gravity will pull the parachute down to the ground, but the large surface of the plastic bags will create more air resistance. This eventually leads to the parachutes hitting terminal speed, where the air resistance counteracts the gravity and the egg drifts safely to the ground.
Determine which parachute was more effective. Discount any egg that breaks on impact with the ground. Watch to see which parachute catches the air and reaches terminal speed first. Watch for the change between falling and gliding to see this.
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About the Author
Lee Johnson is a freelance writer and science enthusiast, with a passion for distilling complex concepts into simple, digestible language. He's written about science for several websites including eHow UK and WiseGeek, mainly covering physics and astronomy. He was also a science blogger for Elements Behavioral Health's blog network for five years. He studied physics at the Open University and graduated in 2018.