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Getting Started Select Design Task Learn About Design
MOVIE 1:   7 minutes 28 seconds
Model Parachute

The LBD™ Model Parachute takes most students from 3-7 class periods to finish, and has been used in math, science and tech ed classes. The main challenge, contained in its Design Brief, reads: "Design a parachute from the materials provided that carries a given load and takes the longest time to fall a specified distance." Watch Movie 1 to get a "quick peek" of what is involved. Since students will be doing both designing and redesigning, you may want to read the Ways of Naive Designers about teaching strategies for beginning designers:

  •  How Parachutes Work  Learn what engineering and science ideas lie behind how parachutes work.
  •  Parachute Variables & Effects  Find out about those parachute features that make a difference on chute performance when changed.
  •  Design Rules-of-Thumb   Students generate advice or rules-of-thumb to fellow designers, based on results of their experiments with parachutes.
  •  Key Design Criteria  Students don't understand a design challenge just from reading the brief. Learn how they need also to discover key criteria of what a chute must to do to develop the best design possible.
  •  Science Timeline  See chronologically ordered videos of two science teachers doing the parachute task.
  •  Tech Ed Video Timeline  Watch day-by-day footage of a tech ed teacher doing the parachute task and his own follow-up activity for checking understanding: designing a toy that uses a parachute.
  •  Designing Your Lessons  Read about options to consider when planning the parachute unit.
  •  Student Work  Listen to students talking about their designing, and review drawings and reports they wrote on their parachute activities in the early and later phases of their work.
Materials and Handouts

Click on the icon or title for pages from the Learning By Design™ materials for students or teachers, both of which can be reprinted for classroom use. The LBD™ Teacher Materials describe science ideas related to parachutes that will help you help your students design their chutes.

Connections to Standards

Some science teachers use this task when introducing or studying forces, Newton's Laws of Motion, and terminal speed. Others use it to develop students' skills in designing experiments, where controlling variables is key. They also can develop causal reasoning by having students focus attention on factors that cause parachutes to partially or fully collapse when descending.

Tech ed teachers can use parachute as a start-off point for showing how testing in design can yield design rules-of-thumb that engineers use to make informed design decisions. Design work in teams can be done in a number of ways, and presentations of findings through gallery walks and pin-up sessions can get introduced.

Math teachers can have their students reason about the ratios of surface area/weight, which helps determine an object's terminal speed during freefall. Students can calculate the rate of descent, and use different approaches to use estimates to determine the area of their canopies and percentage of the canopy that the vent hole occupies, which they read about via a design rule-of-thumb that can help them make key design decisions.

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