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Flight

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Physics
Main Image
Physics
Activity Language
Time Needed for Activity

Students build a paper glider and test it for forces of flight.

What You Need

  • Half sheets of paper (2 per student)
  • Cardstock triangle, 5" x 5"
  • Paper clip
  • Rubber band
  • Straw
  • Ribbon, 4" long (2 per student, optional)
  • Blingy stickers or extra paper clips, to add weight (4-6 per student)
  • Tape 

Activity Guide:

Presentation:

Safety Notes

Ensure you are familiar with Let's Talk Science's precautions with regards to safe virtual outreach to youth.

What To Do

Introduction

  • Introduce the four main forces of flight using the Flight Presentation.
  • Give each student two half-pieces of paper. Students should observe that both are the same size and shape.
  • Tell students to crumple one sheet of paper into a ball. Ask "which one will fall to the floor first?"
  • Have them drop the flat piece of paper and crumpled piece of paper from the same height, at the same time.
  • What happened?
  • Discuss Bernoulli's principle:
    • As the speed of a fluid or gas increase, the pressure decreases.
  • Briefly discuss the shape of a plane's wing using the term airfoil. 

To build the plane:

  • Fold back the top 3cm of the straw and insert the rubber band into the fold.
  • Fold the straw over the rubber band and secure the end with tape (this creates the launcher for the plane). 
  • Put the paperclip on 1 corner of the paper triangle (this corner will be the one that aligns with the launcher where the elastic is).
  • Have them tape the triangle to the launcher using at least 3 strips of tape to secure it tightly, leaving a little of the straw striking out. 
  • Hook the rubber band around the tip of your thumb or finger and pull back on the opposite end of the glider/plane.
  • Release the straw and the plane will fly forward.

Activity

  • Start by launching their planes in the air. 
  • After a few minutes, have students add stickers or paper clips to their plane to increase its weight. What happens?
  • Then, they can add ribbons to their plane. What happens?
  • Get students to launch their plane from different angles (angle of attack).

Wrap-Up

  • Discuss their observations. What made their plane fly better? What made it fly worse?
  • Review the four forces of flight.
  • Discuss possible careers related to the workshop and what students will need (education, experience, etc.) to get into those careers. 

Discovery

What's Happening?

There are four main forces of flight and these are some ways you can test for the forces of flight:

  • Thrust: you can change the amount of thrust you give your glider by changing how far you pull back on the elastic (or how hard you throw it). Do you think your glider will go further or not as far if you give it more thrust?
  • Drag: drag is caused by air and the particles in the air (like dust) and can slow your glider down or make it not go as far. Do you think your glider will go further or not as far if you fly it indoors or outdoors toward the wind on a windy day?
    • The crumpled piece of paper will fall faster towards the ground than a normal piece of paper because there is less surface area for the air to hit and therefore less drag. 
    • With planes, the nose of the plane is often shaped with a rounded wedge to reduce the surface area hitting the air.
  • Weight: Will your glider fly better if it has more weight on it? You can test this by adding some stickers or an extra paper clip or other materials you might have at home.
  • Lift: How a glider lifts into the air depends on the angle it is at. You can test this by launching your glider on an angle toward the ceiling or at angle toward the floor or try other angles. Which angle keeps your glider in the air the longest?

Bernoulli's principle states that the faster a gas (or fluid) travels over a surface (like a wing), the less time it has to push or cause pressure on the surface.  The shape of an airplane's wing is called an airfoil and it is rounded and tilted slightly which causes the air to flow more quickly over it. 

What's Happening?

There are four main forces of flight and these are some ways you can test for the forces of flight:

  • Thrust: you can change the amount of thrust you give your glider by changing how far you pull back on the elastic (or how hard you throw it). Do you think your glider will go further or not as far if you give it more thrust?
  • Drag: drag is caused by air and the particles in the air (like dust) and can slow your glider down or make it not go as far. Do you think your glider will go further or not as far if you fly it indoors or outdoors toward the wind on a windy day?
    • The crumpled piece of paper will fall faster towards the ground than a normal piece of paper because there is less surface area for the air to hit and therefore less drag. 
    • With planes, the nose of the plane is often shaped with a rounded wedge to reduce the surface area hitting the air.
  • Weight: Will your glider fly better if it has more weight on it? You can test this by adding some stickers or an extra paper clip or other materials you might have at home.
  • Lift: How a glider lifts into the air depends on the angle it is at. You can test this by launching your glider on an angle toward the ceiling or at angle toward the floor or try other angles. Which angle keeps your glider in the air the longest?

Bernoulli's principle states that the faster a gas (or fluid) travels over a surface (like a wing), the less time it has to push or cause pressure on the surface.  The shape of an airplane's wing is called an airfoil and it is rounded and tilted slightly which causes the air to flow more quickly over it. 

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