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Family Team STEAM Challenge: Paratroopers

The gravity of this month’s Family STEAM Team Challenge is of utmost importance! This challenge invites families to inquire, predict, observe, test, and record the effects gravity has on different toy paratroopers. The best part? You can experiment with different designs, materials, and environments for this challenge.

This Issue's Steam Topic

Exploring the force of gravity.

The Mission

Design, construct, and test the effects gravity has on different parachute designs and figures who use them.

The Apparatus

A parachute made of various materials around the house.

The Challenge

Determine which parachute and paratrooper is the most effective.

Materials you could use (but are not limited to)

• paper towels, scraps of different fabrics, flexible plastics, tissue paper  
• pipe cleaners, yarn, or string
• scissors
• hole puncher
• Scotch tape
• brave paratroopers to test the parachute (pipe cleaner stick figures, army men, G.I. Joes or Barbies, Lego figures, small plastic toys)

Incorporating the Arts

STEAM is all about including the arts with the sciences. So for this challenge, experiment with the shape of the parachute, the style of the parachute, and the location of the string on the parachute to change the way gravity affects the efficiency of the parachute itself. Grab a digital camera or cellphone and document the flights to capture the flight of the paratroopers.

Questions to Mull Over

• Predict which parachute will work the best.
• Which parachute and paratrooper weighs the most? How did that affect the flight?
• Time and record the paratroopers’ flights using the different materials and suggestions above. Which parachute was the most effective and why?
• Let the wind take control. Which parachute/parachute man takes the furthest flight?
• What is gravity and why do we have it on Earth?
• Launch your favorite parachute and parachute man inside and outside. How does the effect of gravity change? Why do you think that is? 

The Family STEAM Challenge is all about experimenting with the ordinary to make the extraordinary! CVF challenges your family to think and play together all in the name of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (that’s where the STEAM comes in).

Each challenge can be completed as a family or a group of friends in as little or as much time needed; however, most challenges can be completed within one sitting. The Family STEAM Challenge is also designed to get all ages involved through hands on experimenting. So get ready to put your collective thinking caps on to design a seriously cool apparatus made almost entirely out of reusable or recyclable materials laying around the house.

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