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 2


Session 1
Questions

What are the four forces affecting flight?

What is the Bernoulli Principle?

How do wings keep the airplane in the air?

What is the effect of weight and balance on flight?


Goal

To understand the four forces on flight

To understand the the Bernoulli Principle and how it affects flight


Activities

Four forces of flight interactive and discussion

Bernoulli activities

Weight and Balance Discussion

Create styrofoam gliders


Resources

Interactive

Background Reading

Glider Instructions


Outcomes

Journal

Constructed glider

Session 2
Questions

What is an airfoil?

What is the optimum wing design?

How do wings work?

space


Goal

To understand what an airfoil is

To determine the best design for a wing and understand how wings work


Activities

Review of last session

Jigsaw activity on the four forces

space

space


Resources

Internet Research Sites

space

space


Outcomes

Presentation

Journal Notes

How do airplanes fly?


The Four Forces of Flight

Have students write in their journal what the four forces are in their own words and draw a model representing each force.

Four Forces of Flight Image

Credit: Patricia Smeyers


Share with the other students.


More detailed look into lift: Bernoulli’s Principle, Angle of attack, Coanda effect

Facilitator explains, "Angle of attack is the angle of the wing compared to the airflow. Think of having your hand outside the window of your car when it’s moving. If you arm and hand are level (angle attack of 0) then there is no upward force on your hand. Now put your arm at an angle (maybe 20 degrees up) and what happens. Your arm will want to move up. Your hand and arm are pushing the air down, which is pushing your hand and arm up." Ask the students, "Would this affect drag? Does the wind also push your hand back?" Pauses, Answer: “Yes, the more angle of attack the more the drag."

Coanda effect: Explain, “The Coanda effect shows that fluids will try to follow the shape of whatever they flow around. This includes water. As the air follows the shape of the top of the wing, the air is being pulled down to the wing, which also pulls the wing up.” Pause, “Bernoulli added to this and says that since air has to travel farther on the top of the wing, that air is less dense there and this also causes an upward lift.”

Activities for Bernoulli’s principle:

Fun with Bernoulli Part B or Part C or both

Investigate Bernoulli's Principle


Resources

2 cups and a ping pong ball

Two balloons with string

Bernoulli Principle and Coanda Effect

Explanation of lift and forces that cause turning

Forces acting on the airplane

Get it Wright: Podcasts

The Four Fources

Problem Solving Process Diagram

Space Curling


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?


Angle of Attack Activity Small-group Hands-on Scientific Inquiry 15-20 minutes

Watch .

In this activity, students will build and test gliders with three different angles of incidence. The angle of incidence is defined as shown in the picture. The longitudinal axis of the airplane is an imaginary line from the nose of the airplane to the tail. For more information on the angle of incidence, see this site.

Angle of Attack Image

Angle of Attack


If gliders with different angles of incidence are thrown straight (so the motion is parallel to the longitudinal axis), then changing the angle of incidence will result in a different angle of attack for the glider.

Each team will build three gliders using the template on page 59 of the NASA Guide.

Each glider built by the team must have a different angle of incidence, so they need to determine the three angles they are going to use and then use a protractor to mark it out on the template.

Discuss with students what they think will happen with the different angles. Try to get a hypothesis of what will happen.

Perform an initial test of the gliders. Why do they not perform well? What can they do to make the airplane fly better? Facilitate a discussion leading toward adding weight (paper clips) to the nose. Does this help? Determine a hypothesis on why? (An explanation will be covered in the next lesson)

Test the gliders: Try to throw the gliders exactly the same way (or run at the same speed and just let it go) and record what happens. Does it go up, or down, how does it stay in the air, how far does it go? Add weight to optimize performance.

Use the Angle of Attack Worksheet to record results.

Have students draw conclusions from the testing:

Do gliders with different angles of incidence need different amounts of weight to make them stable?

What are the differences in the flight performance due to different angles of incidence? (When the airplane is first thrown, it will have more velocity. Consequently, airplanes with higher angles of incidence will have greater lift and drag with the higher velocity)


Angle of Attack and Life to Drag Ratio Extra Activity

How Wings Work


Resources

NASA Flight Guide

The Aviation History Online Museum Explains angle of attack; this has links at bottom to pages on relative wind and angle of incidence

Boeing: What is angle of attack? has a good drawing showing angle of attack

Angle of Attack

Angle of Attack and Lift explains how angle of attack relates to pressures above and below the wing

Angle of Attack Worksheet

Problem Solving Process Diagram

Visual Angle of Attack Indicator video showing design and use of a visual angle of attack indicator (from about 1:20 to 4:20 is probably most helpful)

Template for glider (1 per student) from page 59 of NASA Guide

Styrofoam for glider (1 per student)

Plastic knives to cut out wing shape (1 paper student)

Protractor

Glue and Tape

Binder Clips

Paper Clips

Markers

Sanders

Tape Rulers


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?

Session 2

NASA Flight Guide

The Aviation History Online Museum

Boeing: What is angle of attack?

Angle of Attack

Angle of Attack and Lift

Angle of Attack Worksheet

Problem Solving Process Diagram

Visual Angle of Attack Indicator

Template for glider (1 per student) from page 59 of NASA Guide

Styrofoam for glider (1 per student)

Plastic knives to cut out wing shape (1 paper student)

Protractor

Glue and Tape

Binder Clips

Paper Clips

Markers

Sanders

Tape Rulers