Per Person Team:
- 5 sheets of paper (8.5×11 inch)
- 1 index card (3×5 inch)
- 4 paper clips
- Scotch tape
- Sketch book
When engineers design parachutes or hot air balloons, they use air resistance, also known as drag, to slow down the descent in order to land gently in a specific location.
- Identify the Problem
- The most critical step of any engineering challenge is to understand the problem you are trying to solve.
- How can you design an aircraft that uses drag to land as slowly as possible onto a target?
- Here are the specs:
- Your aircraft must be dropped from a height of at least six feet.
- It must land within the target area that you mark on the floor.
- A reasonable target is a circle of 36-inch diameter, but you can change the size to make it more or less challenging.
- Brainstorm Designs
- What do objects that fall gently and relatively slowly have in common? Think about feathers, maple seeds or balloons – are there clues in their shape or weight?
- Experiment with your materials and maybe sketch some ideas to help determine your best design for building.
- Ask yourself:
- How might you fold your paper to slow its fall? How do the locations of the paper folds make a difference?
- Do you think your aircraft would drop more slowly or quickly if it is designed to spin? Try it out!
- Can you use paper clips to stabilize the falling aircraft’s pathway into the target?
- Build and Test Your Design
- When you start building your aircraft, you can test it along the way by dropping it from lower heights.
- When you’re ready for the 6-foot drop, get a timer and take a few test flights.
- Time each fall and note how close to the target your aircraft falls.
- Make Changes and Try Again
- Did your aircraft fall like you thought it would? Are there improvements you can make to increase the amount of time it takes?
- Redesign your aircraft and test again!
- Share Your Results with a teacher, parent/guardian, or DiscoverE
- Share photos or a video of your aircraft in action!
- Send to DiscoverE at social@DiscoverE.org or post on Instagram/Twitter using the hashtag #DiscoverEChallenge and tag us @DiscoverEOrg