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Campus Alert

Lauren Hudgens

Up in the Air: The Safety of Skydiving

Submitted to Dr. Sithy Maharoof for Fundamentals of Physics (PHYS-101)


My paper focuses on the physics behind the sport of skydiving as well as its overall safety. I use information and data from a case study containing the stories of two different divers who achieved record free falls. Using the fall distances and maximum velocities, I was able to determine to what extent air resistance had on each diver. I also discuss how other factors, such as altitude, body position and terminal velocity, impacted the divers’ falls. With all this information in mind, I was able to come to a conclusion regarding the general safety of skydiving for the average person.

General Education Connections

  • Communicate ideas in written, oral and other modes as appropriate to a situation and audience
  • Apply quantitative and scientific reasoning skills relevant to a field of study
  • Employ various thinking strategies to develop well-reasoned judgments
  • Evaluate sources of information for accuracy, relevance and reliability
  • Explore issues through creative, interdisciplinary and innovative approaches

I believe this signature assignment helped me realize the quantitative and scientific reasoning skills relevant to This assignment helped me work on reading case studies and evaluating evidence in order to pick out essential information and complete mathematical calculations as well as come to conclusions based on what I have read. By reading the case study, I was able to pick out the values necessary for calculating fall distance and maximum velocity. I also had no prior knowledge of drag force and terminal velocity, but this assignment forced me to read unfamiliar sources and then apply the information to my calculations. The signature assignment also made me consider the reliability, relevance and accuracy of my sources as I made sure to only include information from sources recommended by our professor, such as my textbook and NASA’s website, as well as government, educational and skydiving-focused websites. By doing so, I was able to eliminate biased or inaccurate sources and only support my argument with facts and scientific evidence. If I included false information in my paper, my argument would have immediately become invalid and unimportant in regards to the assignment topic. Completing this project also helped develop my writing skills since I mainly have experience writing creative or abstract papers rather than scientific essays. This allowed me to learn to convey my ideas and information in a format that I’m not exactly familiar or comfortable with, which will be helpful for writing future papers in APA format or for another science course. Lastly, because skydiving deals with other topics, like biology, I was able to use other approaches to further back up my argument. For example, I was able to find websites that discussed the effects of skydiving on the human body as well as the mortality rate, and then use that information to support my claim that skydiving was a sport safe enough for the average person to partake in.


A few challenges came up as I prepared for this assignment. A big challenge was not being able to go to the community library or college library to do my research because of COVID restrictions. (In the past I would go to the library and look up books or journal articles in person.) The main challenge I faced was essentially my overall lack of knowledge on skydiving. I started this project with virtually no understanding of the actual physics behind free falling, which made completing this assignment significantly harder. Because I had to begin my initial research towards the beginning of the semester, I had to rely heavily on articles discussing the topics of the paper. While I was eventually able to form a general understanding of the prompt, I found myself being confused about the concepts of drag force and terminal velocity since it hadn’t been discussed in class. Because of this, I spent numerous hours researching and trying to comprehend those two topics. Once I was finally able to understand and explain how drag force impacted a diver’s terminal velocity and fall time, I was able to complete the rest of the project with little difficulty.


I will be taking Physics-102 in the Spring 2021 semester, so I believe the topics discussed in my signature assignment will definitely be brought up again. Having done so much research on free fall, drag force, maximum/terminal velocity, etc. will ensure that I enter the course with more prior knowledge than maybe other students will have or if I had not completed this signature assignment. I am planning on becoming a Physician’s Assistant, so I’ll be taking numerous pre-med courses as well as more STEM-related classes. Because I am pursuing this type of career, there is a possibility I will encounter similar topics in future classes I take.