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The relationship between the shape of a parachute and its drop velocityFeatured science projectScience project video


This science fair project was performed to investigate the relationship between the shape of a parachute and its drop velocity. Triangular, square, rectangular and round parachutes were used.


Among the parachutes, the round parachute will take the longest to land.

Scientific Terms

Gravity, drag, force, air resistance, velocity


How a parachute works

There are 2 forces at work when a parachute descends. The force of gravity pulls an object to the earth. It causes elevated objects to fall from their place. If however, the object is attached to a parachute, an upward drag force is exerted on the object as well. This is because there is a certain level of air resistance against a parachute’s canopy, and this slows down the objects fall.

If a jumper descends too quickly, he may reach the ground too soon and hurt himself. When a jumper uses a parachute that has a large canopy, his drop velocity reduces, and he will descend safely. Generally, it is safe to land at a speed of up to 5km/h.

Currently, parachutes come in various shapes and sizes. For military and cargo drops, it is important to use round or mushroom shaped parachutes. These take advantage of the greater amount of air drag during descent. Extreme sports enthusiasts seldom use round parachutes.

When a jumper uses a rectangular parachute, he experiences a fast descent plus forward motion. The jumper then needs to run when he/she lands.

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Complexity level:
Project cost ($):
Time required:
It will take an hour to set up the science fair project, and an hour to conduct it
Material availability:
The materials can be purchased from a hardware store.
Safety concerns:

Basic safety requirements. Adult supervision recommended.