Flight and Aerodynamics with Paper Airplanes
In this activity kids will explore the principles of aerodynamics by designing and testing paper airplanes. Encourage students to experiment with different wing shapes, sizes, and folds to observe how they affect flight performance. They can measure flight distance, hang time, or conduct controlled experiments to investigate variables like wing design or paper weight.
From: 9 Fun Science Activities. Click here to find links to the other 8 activities!
Materials for Flight and Aerodynamics with Paper Airplanes
- Paper of different weights
- Ruler or measuring tape
- Markers or colored pencils (optional)
- Large open space for flying the paper airplanes
- Stopwatch or timer
Procedure for Flight and Aerodynamics with Paper Airplanes
- Discuss the basic principles of flight and aerodynamics, including lift, drag, and thrust, with the participants. There are many good YouTube videos on this topic.
- Explain that the objective of the experiment is to design and test paper airplanes to determine how different design factors affect flight distance and stability.
- Begin by designing a basic paper airplane with a simple dart design. This website gives good instructions for making paper airplanes. It has good instructions for making several different kinds of paper airplanes: https://www.hgtv.com/design/make-and-celebrate/handmade/how-to-make-a-paper-airplane.
- Test the initial design by throwing the paper airplane and measuring the distance it travels. Record the distance.
- Choose one design factor to vary, such as wing shape, wing size, or fuselage length. For example, for wing shape, create different airplanes with delta wings, rectangular wings, or swept-back wings.
- Create three paper airplanes for each design factor variation to ensure consistency and accuracy of results.
- Test each design variation by throwing the paper airplanes and measuring the distance traveled. Record the distance for each flight.
- Repeat steps 5-7 for the remaining design factors you selected.
- Analyze the data and observe the patterns and trends in flight distance for each design variation.
- Discuss the impact of each design factor on flight performance. Which design factors resulted in longer flight distances? Did any design factors affect stability or maneuverability?
- Based on the observations and analysis, choose the design factors that contributed to the best flight performance.
- Optional: Decorate the chosen paper airplane design with markers or colored pencils to personalize it.
- Test the final chosen design multiple times and record the average flight distance.
- Compare the flight distance of the final chosen design with the initial design and discuss the improvements made.
- Optional: Explore other factors that may affect the flight performance, such as launch angle or wing angle, and conduct additional experiments to investigate their impact.
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