Science / Design & Technology KS2: How air resistance slows down vehicles

The young investigators are set a challenge by Dr Yan Wong.

Once the Bloodhound supersonic car has hit 1000 mph, how will it slow down again? They visit a motor sport event, where they meet Bloodhound engineer Annie Berrisford.

They find a car a bit like Bloodhound, a Split Second car powered by jet engines. It's slowed down in two ways - a parachute to bring it down from the top speed followed by wheel brakes.

Annie explains that Bloodhound will have both types too; the wheel brakes are for low speeds of less than 100 mph. They meet a young drag racer, who tells them what it's like to race at 85 mph.

Back in the hanger, Dr Yan shows them the air brakes on the side of the Bloodhound that will create drag, just like the parachute.

This short film is from the series The Bloodhound Adventure.

Teacher Notes

Students could be asked what their understanding of air resistance is, and think of examples of where they encounter it in everyday life.

To consolidate understanding, there could be a discussion about why the car needed both wheel brakes for lower speeds, and the parachutes for high speeds.

Challenge students to design their own parachutes using a selection of materials. They could test it on themselves by measuring the time taken to run 50 metres, then again with a plastic bag parachute attached, and again with a parachute made of different material. Which design had the most air resistance, and therefore slowed the students the most as they ran?

This experiment could be recorded as a video so that students can evaluate their experiment and streamline their parachutes.

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching Science or Design and Technology at Key Stage 2 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and Level 2 in Scotland.

More from The Bloodhound Adventure

Experimenting with balloon-powered cars
Experimenting with reaction times
What's Bloodhound like to drive?
Experimenting propulsion with water rockets
Harnessing air resistance with parachutes
Investigating air and water resistance
Investigating friction
Is the Bloodhound SSC a car, a boat or a plane?
What impact does air resistance and density have on travelling fast?
Why doesn't Bloodhound have tyres?
What makes a supersonic car move?