Parachutes - a Science Experiment

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Aim To investigate how parachutes work and whether size matters to performance.

Background According to Agee (2010), “As a skydiver is falling, the force of gravity is pulling them towards the earth… The parachute slows the skydiver down because it causes air resistance or drag. The air pushes the parachute back up, and creates a force opposite to the force of gravity, slowing the skydiver down.”

Question We wanted to find out how the size of a parachute would affect its descent as we felt slowing descent was integral to a parachute‟s performance – indeed, parachutes were invented to slow a person‟s fall when jumping from a hot air balloon.

Our specific question therefore was: If we change the parachute size, how will it affect the time it takes to land?

This question allows us to make a prediction (based on a scientific hypothesis), whilst also developing skills such as questioning; measuring and fair testing; recording/interpreting data; drawing conclusions and evaluating results.

This investigation links to the national curriculum‟s standard of „Scientific Enquiry‟, allowing children to learn and develop all the skills mentioned above including use of ICT. Additionally, it links to the standard of „Physical Processes‟ (specifically forces and motion). It also requires children to consider safe working environments.

Tanya Wainwright S1002106, Group 2, Cohort Z

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Hypothesis and Prediction According to Devereux (2007, p8), hypothesising is about using “previous knowledge, evidence and observations to formulate tentative theories about why things happen the way they do.” So, using our prior knowledge we hypothesised that bigger parachutes would create more air resistance. This appears to be supported by Devereux (2007, p55) who states: “The air offers a greater resisting force to objects that have a large surface area…”

Our prediction of what would happen therefore was that as the parachutes got bigger, due to increasing air...
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