FABClassroom: Physics Club Engineers Solution to Safely Land Lizard

Located in the beautiful Sonoran Desert of Yuma, Arizona, Centennial Middle School is surrounded by colorful sunsets, warm winters and inspiring educators.


Science teacher Kaitlin McGill has been using Fab@School Maker Studio with her Physics Club. She recently shared a bit about the parachute project that required her students to collaborate and design a parachute that can safely land a small plastic lizard on the ground.

How did you pose the parachute challenge to the students? Were there specific parameters?

I introduced them to Newton’s Laws of Motion. We favored the law “An object in motion stays in motion, unless an outside force acts on it”. So, I challenged them with the following: Create a parachute or something that will safely land a small plastic lizard to the ground.

What has been design process on the parachutes?

We have been following the engineering design process.


Problem: Safely get the little plastic lizard to the ground.

Background Research: Students used their iPads to look up what a parachute is and what various parachutes look like. Also, Newton’s Laws of Motion and principals of aerodynamics.

Specify Requirements: Students learned that they needed a parachute that is big enough to support the weight of the small lizard.

Develop and Prototype Solutions: Students made several prototypes, approximately ten. When it did not work, they went back to the drawing board and modified their designs in Fab@School.

Test solutions: Students stood on a step stool or ladder to test the accuracy of their design.

Solutions Met Requirements: Students met the requirement after six weeks of failed attempts.

Communicate the Results: The students discussed why their parachute attempts failed or were successful.


What has been one “aha” moment working with students with Fab@School?

There would be times when the students would feel frustrated with their failing design. They learned that working collaboratively, instead of individually, can create a better design.

How have your students reacted to the program?

Students say “It was cool” “I am able to be creative.” Overall it has had a positive impact on my club.

What advice would you give to someone starting out with Fab@School?

If just starting with Fab@School, give yourself some time. The program is very intuitive; just take a little bit of time to play with it. Also trust your students, with very little instruction they can soar.

What’s next?

Physic’s club will be going off from science and more into history. The students are showing extreme interest in historical locations.


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