Skip to main content

How to Make a Parachute out of a Trash Bag

Learn how to make a parachute out of a trash bag to demonstrate air resistance with the instructions in this Howcast science project video.


Hey, guys. Has your mom or dad, or whoever you live with, ever asked you to take out the trash? Then you take out the trash, you come back, and you got to put a garbage bag back into the garbage. As you're sitting there and you're putting the bag in the garbage, you're saying to yourself . . . maybe it's raining, "Man, there's nothing to do today." You're bored. Actually, check this out. You could actually take a plastic bag. The beauty about science is how we can take things and reuse them instead of just throwing them out. Maybe before you put the bag into the garbage, we could transform this bag into something really, really cool and amazing. I'm actually not going to tell you what we're making yet. We're just going to go through this process, build it, and then see if you guys can make cool prediction. Remember, predictions are educated guesses. You could figure out what we're doing.

A regular garbage bag; I'm going to open it up so that it's a nice, cool square, and I'm going to take string. If you don't have string, you have an old pair of shoes; you could use the shoe laces. You could use anything you want, but you want to make sure that you have 4 pieces of identical-sized string. The length doesn't really matter, but they have to be exactly the same.

I already pre-cut 4 pieces of string. I'm going to take 4 pieces of tape . . . 1, 2. I think it's cool if you have them pre-cut; it just makes the experiment flow faster. I cut 4 pieces of tape, and what I'm going to do is take String 1. Obviously, this is a square, squares have 4 corners. What I do in Corner 1, I'm going to do in Corner 2, 3, and 4, exactly the same. The length of the piece that I'm putting here, I need to make sure I do there.

I'm going to take Tape 1: Tape 1, String 1, Corner 1. I'm going to . . . maybe about an inch; I'm going to hold it down. It's so important that when you take your tape that you really press that tape down. You don't want this string falling because we're going to make something really, really cool. I'll give you a little clue: It's going to fall through the air. You don't want it falling apart as it's falling through the air.

Same exact thing Corner 2; same size piece of string. Remember you want to control your variables; you want to keep everything the same. Here, this goes to Corner 2. Same thing; tape, press it down really, really tight. I'm just going to repeat the same thing 4 times.

I think this is actually the hardest part for those of you who don't know how make knots yet. You know what; you're going to learn. Take String 1 and bring it to the center. String 2 comes to the center. Remember, we don't want it to be different; exactly the same. String 3 will meet String 2. It's like a meeting of the strings. String 4 is going to meet String 3.

As I take this, I'm going to show you something really cool. Before I make my knot, I'm just going to take this and I'm going to start to move it into the air. You're going notice. It's so hard to think about air because it's invisible, but air does take up space. As you notice, what is it starting to look like? A really cool parachute, right? You see; I created something that's extremely slow-moving, because this bag grabs the air and I made a parachute.

The part of the parachute that's actually grabbing the air is called the canopy. That's the part that's going to be falling through the air. As it's falling through the air, it's got to have all that air move out of the way. What happens parachute when it's moving the air out of the way? It move extremely slowly. The bigger the canopy, will it move faster or slower? It's going to move slower. The smaller the canopy, does it have more air or less air? Less air, so it's going to move a little faster.

Now watch. Let's test this by adding a weight to it. I'm going to take this; I'm going to make a knot. For fun, I have a challenge. I don't know if this parachute is going to work. You see my egg? We're going to name the egg Fred. I'm going to take Fred and I'm going to tape him to the parachute. If you wanted to, you could a draw a face on Fred, because we don't know what's about to happen to Mr. Fred. You can make him look like . . . make him look happy or make him look sad because he doesn't want to do this. I'm going to take this, I'm going to take the tape, and tape it around Fred. Now I actually have a working parachute.

The cool part about this is when you're parachute's done, if you have a backyard at home, or if you're mom or dad, or whomever you live with, wants to take you to the park, you could go to the jungle gym and get to a higher surface and you spread out the canopy. When I release this, the cool part about this is . . . this is your challenge: Can you guys create, at home, a parachute that will move slow enough through the air and be extremely air resistant, that will make Fred the Egg land safely?

Did mine work? I don't know. What I did was I'm going to make a prediction and I'm going to say, "Yes, it will work." I'm going to test my prediction by doing it. Should we do it? Let's try it. I'm going to pick up the bag. I'm going to observe Mr. Fred. Mr. Fred is not dead; there's not a crack. You see; I made an air-resistant moving device that flows extremely slowly through the air. Look; not a scratch on Mr. Fred. That's my parachute.

Popular Categories