Carrie Robledo, SCOTT JEWITT
Engineering, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies
Material Type:
Middle School
  • 7th Grade
  • Engineering
  • Math
  • NC Engineers
  • Science
  • Social Studies
  • License:
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike

    Education Standards

    Dropping in on WWII

    Dropping in on WWII


    Students will watch introductory videos about paratroopers in WWII and how parachutes work, and be challenged to design, create, and improve, an original paratrooper with specific limited supplies.

    Instructor Directions


    Dropping in on WWII

    Submitted by Scott Jewitt

    Eno River Academy


    Driving Question / ScenarioCan you design and create a paratrooper that will fall slowly to the ground?
    Project SummaryStudents will watch introductory videos about paratroopers in WWII and how parachutes work, and be challenged to design, create, and improve, an original paratrooper with specific limited supplies.
    Estimated Time~10 class periods of ~50mins and some homework as necessary
    Materials / ResourcesPowerPoint Introduction (attached), plastic grocery bags, dental floss, scotch tape, army figurines (all the same size if possible), graph paper, and a SAFE high place from which to drop the paratroopers (2nd story window, top of playground structure, etc.), Pacing Guide that breaks the project into daily chunks (attached), Self-Assessment/Reflection (attached), and detailed Grading Rubric (attached).  
    Grade7th, but could easily be adapted for other grade levels.
    Subject(s)Engineering, Math, Science, Social Studies
    Educational StandardsNext Generation Science / Engineering Standard:MS-ETS1-1. Define the criteria and constraints of a design problem with sufficient precision to ensure a successful solution, taking into account relevant scientific principles and potential impacts on people and the natural environment that may limit possible solutions.  American Society for Engineering Education Standard:Apply a structured approach to solving problems including: defining a problem, brainstorming, researching and generating ideas, identifying criteria and constraints, exploring possibilities, making a model or prototype, evaluating the design using specifications, and communicating results.NC 7th grade Math:NC.7.RP.1 Compute unit rates associated with ratios of fractions to solve real-world and mathematical problems.NC 7th grade Science: 7.P.1: Understand motion, the effects of forces on motion and the graphical representations of motionNC 7th grade Social Studies:7.H.2.3 Explain how increased global interaction accelerates the pace of innovation in modern societies (e.g. advancements in transportation, communication networks and business practices).
    Project Outline
    AskHow can I design and create a paratrooper to fall as slowly as possible with the specific materials I am given?
    ImagineStudents will collaborate in groups to brainstorm:-How does air resistance work? -How can we maximize resistance?-How can we best utilize our materials?-Look at parachute designs (online research)
    PlanStudents will plan two designs on graph paper--showing an overhead and side view.  -Groups will choose one design that they will build and circle the one they will create.
    CreateStudents will create a model paratrooper using the limited materials. Students will: write a five sentence description of your design: Why you think it will work, how you built it, what materials you used, and what you expect the results to be--how well it will work.
    EvaluateStudents will drop their paratroopers, record the time it took to fall, calculate the velocity, and evaluate their design.Students will write a five sentence analysis of how well or poorly your paratrooper worked. How slowly did it fall--what was the “drop time?” Were you surprised by the results? What went well? What needs to be improved? How can you make it better? 
    ImproveStudents will improve their design by evaluating the initial performance and making adjustments in order to create a better paratrooper that falls more slowly than the initial design. Students will write a five sentence description of the revisions you made to your paratrooper. Was a new design planned or did you make some small changes or additions to the original design? What improvements did you make and what do you hope the result will be? How is your second design better?  
    EvaluateStudents will drop their redesigned paratroopers, record the time it took to fall, calculate the velocity, and evaluate their improved design.Students will write a five sentence paragraph that compares the initial and final paratrooper’s’ “drop times” and overall designs. Did your improvements work? If you could make a third design what would you do differently?
    Closure / Student ReflectionsStudents will reflect on their work by completing a self-assessment.
    Possible Modifications / ExtensionsPossible modifications for Exceptional Children or students that struggle with written expression would be to not require a written portion, but instead students could be interviewed in place of writing--or they could film themselves explaining what they did throughout the project. A possible modification would be to allow students to use (much larger) garbage bags and or other materials to make a bigger parachute--which would require something heavier than a plastic army man for it to open/fall correctly. A possible extension would be for students to take pictures of their initial and improved designs and put them on a posterboard with the graph paper “blueprints” and written portions to create a more formal presentation that could be displayed in the classroom or school.A possible extension would be to allow the group that has the slowest falling paratrooper to design a parachute for an old broken computer, or other object that would be fun to drop out of a window.