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What To Observe : Surface Area & Shape : Canopy Layers : Weight : String : Vents : Frame               

Parachute Design Variables and Their Effects

A design variable is something in the product you can change that can affect the product's performance. These design features are like independent variables in an equation. The outcome (or dependent) variable is the product's performance that you observe qualitatively or measure and record quantitatively.

The main goal of this portion of Key Concepts is to review the variables in a model parachute's design, describe their effect on parachute performance, and discuss the science that lies behind these behaviors. The following are some of the ways students can vary the design of their model parachutes. You may want your students to brainstorm for these ideas during their initial discussions of variables:

Surface area
Canopy shape
Number of canopy layers
Weight
Length
Number of Strings
Vent holes (holes or slits)
Frame for canopy (or not)

HINT: Before giving having students talk about the effect of these variables on parachute performance, review the discussion of What To Observe (besides time) as this may effect how you have them test and improve their parachutes.

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