Ingenuity and creativity, along with a determined will to succeed, were the prerequisites for a Year 9 science class project in Term 1. The girls were given a limited set of materials and a tight deadline to create a parachute that was light enough to float, but strong enough to hold together with a weight suspended underneath.
The girls needed to think about how a parachute flies by creating air resistance to work against the pull of gravity. The materials used needed to be flexible and elastic enough to fill with air as it drops. The larger the surface area, the more air resistance is created to slow the rate of descent.
As part of the parachute, the girls were required to design a basket to hold an egg. There was a competition to see whose parachute could stay airborne longest, landing without breaking the egg.
On the day of the competition, the girls gathered at the top of the pool, ready for action. As a welcome surprise, the girls were allowed to do a couple of test runs with small chocolate Easter eggs before the final flight.
During the test, the girls used a number of controlled variables including:
- The same size egg
- The same place to fly the parachute and from the same height
- The same day so that conditions were consistent
- The same materials used to build each parachute
The girls used stopwatches to measure the time of flight in seconds as the dependent variable. The independent variable was based on the different designs of parachute and basket for carrying the egg. This activity formed part of the girls learning about scientific method and fair testing. It also leads onto the Term 2 Science Fair projects and Level 1 NCEA physics and chemistry practical work.
The girls enjoyed using a hen’s egg because there was a messy consequence if the parachute did not land as expected. They also enjoyed taking their science experiment outside and, of course, the chocolate eggs.
Ms Sue Wood, Science Teacher