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History : Chute Types : Newton's Laws : Drag Force : Terminal Speed : Real/Model Chutes               
MOVIE 1:   6 minutes 17 seconds

How Parachutes Work

Beginning designers come up with lots of ways to improve a design, but their ideas often fail because they do not really understand how the device works. Without understanding the cause-effect relationship between a device's parts and its performance as a whole, students must rely on haphazard guessing and random trial-and-error testing. They cannot do informed designing.

This video has interviews with MIT engineering professor David Gordon Wilson and Atlanta-based parachute jump instructor Carl Muerer. Both talk about how parachutes work, and give design tips while addressing the following questions: How does air flow around, through, and past a canopy to create drag? Does an oscillating parachute fall faster than one that stays level with the ground during descent? How do vent holes help improve a parachute's performance?

In the rest of the How Parachutes Work section, you can find out about:

•  History of parachutes and their major defects
•  Different Chute Types and how they work
•  Newton's Laws applied to explaining a chute's descent
•  Factors that affect the Drag Force that a parachute system generates
•  Factors that determine a chute's maximum or Terminal Speed
•  Key differences between Real/Model Chutes

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