parachute engineering challenge

parachute engineering challenge

Take the parachute engineering challenge! A parachute works by forcing air into the front of it and creating a structured wing under which the canopy pilot can fly.


  1. One plastic grocery bag
  2. Scissors
  3. String
  4. Ruler
  5. One small figurine (such as plastic army soldier)


  1. Cut out a square from a plastic bag.
  2. Cut a small hole near the edge of each corner of the square plastic.
  3. Cut 4 pieces of equal length string 
  4. Tie the strings with the square plastic. Make sure the strings are of equal length.
  5. Tie the other ends of the strings to a figurine.
  6. Bring your parachute to your test location.
  7. Drop your figurine from the location


Try cutting a small hole in the middle of the parachute, which will allow air to slowly pass through it rather than spilling out over one side, this should help the parachute fall straighter.

Key Concepts

  • Gravity
  • Resistance
  • Newton’s Law

Scientific Fact

Gravity pulls objects straight down towards the center of Earth. Parachutes work because of air resistance (air does have mass) The more of the air’s mass that the parachute can catch the slower it will fall.

The more weight of your figurine, the quicker the parachute falls. This is because the weight is increasing the terminal velocity of the figurine and counteracting the air resistance from the parachute.

Questions You May Ask

  1. Will a larger parachute make it fly for longer?

  2. Will the weight of figurine effect the velocity?

  3. What variables will make a parachute better or worse?

  4. What changes could you make to improve your design?


If you are looking for more fun physics activities, check out the balloon-powered bottle car. This sustainable activity reuses plastic water bottles, plastic caps and straws.