Project 4 How do airplanes fly?

STEM+C Projects

A Project-based STEM+Computing Inquiry

About

This project was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under Grant Number 1640228. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this project are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Dazhi Yang at dazhiyang@boisestate.edu or use our Contact Form.

Description

This project-based scientific inquiry project: How Do Airplanes Fly? is centered on airplane design and flight control components. It requires students to apply knowledge from physics, mathematics, engineering, technology and computing to solve problems. In this project, students work in small groups to explore and research different types of airplanes, key concepts of why an airplane can fly, turn and be stable, flight control components, and the associated physics and engineering principles. Then, students design a type of an airplane and test their design.

Implementation

Please refer to the weekly activities (such as Week 1 Session 1 in the left sidebar and Resources from the sections below) for detailed information on how to use this project either in a classroom or an informal setting such as in community centers' after-school programs. The twice weekly sessions were originally designed to be 90 minutes in length, including a 10 minute break in the middle of the session. See photos of prior implementations on the projects' photo pages.


Week 1


Session 1
Questions

How do airplanes fly?

How do airplanes take off and stay in the sky?


Goal

To understand the project goal

To understand the problem solving process


Activities

Watch videos on flight

Overview of airplane project

Create team mission patches/airplane logos

Create paper airplanes for distance and airtime and collect data


Resources

Video on Airplanes and Flight

Paper Airplane Websites with instructions


Outcomes

Journal keeping

Understanding the project goal

Paper Airplane Design

Session 2
Questions

How do planes take off and stay in the sky?

How does the design of the plane affect flight?


Goal

To understand the design process

To understand the four forces of flight


Activities

Redesign the paper airplanes

space

space

space


Resources

Flight interactive

Bill Nye Video


Outcomes

Redesigned airplane

How do airplanes fly?


Intro 5-10 minutes

Briefly explain to the students that for the next eight weeks we will be learning about airplanes and how they fly. Possible questions to ask, "How many of you flew on an airplane?" Pause, and then "How many of you wonder how airplanes can stay in the sky?"

Then further introduce the project: "We will be learning about the different parts that make up an airplane, the forces at play during flight, and how airplanes fly and stay in the air, We will take on the role of engineers working through the design process of building airplanes, testing, and redesigning our planes, until we are happy with their performance. The last week, we will compete in a contest to determine whose plane flies the farthest and whose planes have the longest flight time."


Video Activity 15-20 minutes

Show students one or more of the following videos:


Group Discussion

After watching the videos, the facilitator asks "Why do you think airplanes stay in the air?"

Possible discussion topics: wings, forward motion of airplane, engines, forces, lift, thrust;

Have students create their hypothesis and record hypothesis and discussions in their notebooks.


Introduce the Problem-solving Process

Introduce the Problem Solving Chart: Facilitator says, "before we begin, let's look at the problem-solving diagram and go over the categories in the diagram". Discuss the chart with the students

Image of the Problem Solving Process

Tell the students that over the next several weeks they’ll work through this process while designing their own airplane.

Please mention computational thinking (CT) while explaining the Problem Solving Chart so that students are aware of CT.


Teamwork Activity 5-10 minutes

Students will form groups of three for activities and the final competition project. Once in their groups, they will name their airplane company and design the logo/mission patch for their planes. Students will share the company names and logos/mission patch with their fellow classmates.


Paper Airplane Group Activity Small-group Hands-on Scientific Inquiry 25-30 minutes Part 1

In groups, students make paper airplanes and fly them, observing which designs fly fastest, which fly the farthest, which ones make loops, and which ones didn’t work, etc. (The purpose of is to gather information to use later).

It may be helpful to keep the airplanes they make for the next lesson.


Resources

Paper Plane Depot

10 of the Best Paper Airplane Designs

Paper Airplane Gallery

Paper


Student Pre-Survey 20 minutes

Students fill out the pre- survey in the first session to establish the baseline data. The researchers will prepare the surveys. Teachers will collect the completed surveys and return the surveys to the researchers on site.


End of Session Reflection and Debriefing 5-10 minutes

Teacher briefly explains the computational thinking (CT) skill embedded in the Problem Solving Process Diagram. Using the problem solving process diagram, the teacher will ask students to identify what kind of problem solving skills/process/computational thinking they used in this session and explain how they used it. The following are some sample questions that can guide the debrief.

What did I learn today?

What problem solving skills/processes or CT components in this diagram did I use today?

How did I use the problem solving skills/processes/CT components?

How do airplanes fly?


Review Activity 5-10 minutes

Go over the results of the paper airplane activity as a whole group.

Possible questions to guide the discussion:

What planes flew the farthest in your group?

What planes stayed in the air the longest?

What planes were the fastest?

How were the designs that flew farthest different from the ones that flew longest?

If you wanted to design an airplane to fly fast, what would it look like?

What if you wanted it to fly slow and stay in the air longer?

Form your hypotheses and discuss these questions.


Paper Airplane Activity Small-group Hands-on Scientific Inquiry 25-35 minutes Part 2

Review the Problem Solving Chart and explain that today they will be testing and revising their paper airplane designs.

In their groups, students will choose a design to test. Each group must make at least one paper airplane to achieve the best distance and one paper airplane to achieve the longest time in the air (each student should make an airplane).

Students test their design three times and record the results in the flight record worksheet

Based on the results students redesign the plane two more times then test them the same way and record the results in the worksheet.

Students write a journal entry about their results. Possible prompts: Did your last design work better than your first? Why or why not?

Students share their results with the whole group.


Resources

Flight Record Sheet (1 per student)

Paper

Paper airplanes from the previous session (optional)

Problem Solving Process Diagram


End of Session Reflection and Debriefing 5-10 minutes

Teacher briefly explains the computational thinking (CT) skill embedded in the Problem Solving Process Diagram. Using the problem solving process diagram, the teacher will ask students to identify what kind of problem solving skills/process/computational thinking they used in this session and explain how they used it. The following are some sample questions that can guide the debrief.

What did I learn today?

What problem solving skills/processes or CT components in this diagram did I use today?

How did I use the problem solving skills/processes/CT components?