This easy STEM activity for kids is the perfect way to help children learn about air resistance.
As suggested by the name, air resistance is a force caused by air. When an object moves through the air, air resistance “pushes” against it. If you have ever driven on a highway, you might see that large semi-trucks move more slowly than a sleek sports car. That is because the semis have big flat spots for air resistance to push against, whereas a sports car is more pointed and does not have these flat spots. Air resistance is what makes parachutes work. A person falling out of an airplane is like a sleek sports car and will not experience as much air resistance, but as soon as they open their parachute, the air has a wide, flat object to “push” against.
In the hoop flyer lab, the hoops add an area for air resistance to push against. The straw is sleek on its own and does not experience much air resistance, so it falls to the ground quickly without flying very far. The flat spots of the large hoop create room for air to push against, which helps the straw fly further. Air resistance is the force that helped the hoop flyer to fly better and further than a simple straw.
- Try throwing a straw like a dart. Measure how far it can fly. Do you think you can make the straw fly further by adding paper to it?
- Cut three strips out of the cardstock. Use the ruler to measure to ensure they are all the same size. A good starting point might be 1 inch x 4 inches.
- Make a loop out of one of the strips and tape it together.
- Tape the two remaining strips together and make them into a larger loop.
- Position the loops around the straw so that there is one hoop on each end, then tape them in place.
- Make a prediction – will the straw fly further now than it did without the hoops?
- Throw the straw as if you were throwing a dart and measure how far it flies. Compare it to how far the straw flew without the hoops.
Try changing one variable, or aspect of the experiment, at a time to see if you can make the straw fly even further. Here are some ideas:
- Make two loops of the same size.
- Make the big loop out of three strips of paper instead of just two.
- Make three loops.
- Try a different type of paper, like printer paper or construction paper.
- Tape the loops closer to the middle of the straw instead of the ends.
- Cut the straw shorter.
- Tape two straws together to make it longer.
- What other changes can you come up with?
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