Data daredevils

Grade 8 science students are taking active learning to the next level, literally!  

They dropped their customized parachutes from the third floor of the Middle School to the second floor as part of a gravity lab.  

Dr. Fenton Blake explained the lab is about countering gravity. Using trash bags, paper clips, string, and a paper cup, the boys build their parachutes to test them by first having nothing in the paper cup then later adding weight with bolts.  

Alex '26 described his approach. “Originally, I had one trash bag that I flattened out instead of opening up and then I tied strings to all four edges, and that worked moderately well but it wasn’t wide enough so the air couldn’t catch it before it hit the ground. I decided to widen the canopy a little and now it's twice as big as it was before, and it has worked much better. I’ve been able to add two seconds every trial,” he said.  

Collecting and analyzing data is a major part of this project. Dr. Blake wants the boys to find ways to optimize their designs.  

“It’s all personal. There are no guidelines. They’re all unique. I just tried to guide them to make sure it works moderately well, but I don’t want to tell them how to do it because I don’t want 16 cookie cutter versions,” he said. 

Alex enjoyed the project because of its hands-on learning approach. 

“When you’re just reading from something or watching something, you’re not as engaged. When you’re actually out there making something, or testing something, you see it and you see your creation and you make your creation. It’s a sense of ownership that comes with it.” 

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