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 3


Session 1
Questions

How does each of the four forces affect flight?

How do they counteract each other?

How does the shape of the wing affect flight?


Goal

To understand the four forces affecting airplanes in flight

To understand the impact the shape of the wing has on flight

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Activities

Control flight activity

Foilism simulator

Lift Web Page and worksheet


Resources

Internet Resources

Simulator


Outcomes

Journal Notes

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Session 2
Questions

What does Pitch, Roll, Yaw each mean?

How can we control them on an airplane?

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Goal

To understand why we use a wind tunnel for flight testing.

To explain wing performance

To test wing performance


Activities

Pitch, Roll, Yaw Controlled Flight activity

Background on gliders using Flight Guide

Build Delta Wing gliders


Resources

Internet Resources

Glider Instructions


Outcomes

Journal Notes

Gliders

How do airplanes fly?


Weight and Balance Small-group Hands-on Scientific Inquiry 15-20 minutes Finish last activity if needed

Explain that for any object (including an airplane) there is a point where the weight is centered and gravity seems to act at this one point for the whole object. This is called the object’s center of gravity.

10-minute activity: Invite students to find the center of mass of classroom objects (pencils, rulers, etc) by finding the point where the object balances.

Regroup and say, "airplanes have a center of gravity and also a center of lift which is the same idea, but the center of lift - it’s the point where lift pushes up on the airplane."

Group activity

Give each group a foam strip, paper clip, and a binder clip.

Attach the paper clip on one end to represent the balancing tail load.

Tell them they can only push up on the strip at the center (representing the center of lift).

Lift and Load Image

Center of Lift

Tell them to find where the binder clip needs to go to add extra weight so they can most easily balance the strip while touching it only in the middle.

Discuss as a group where the binder clip had to go (students should find that they have the most control if the binder clip is slightly in front of the center of lift as shown in the diagram).

Lift and Load Image

Center of Gravity

Explain that an airplane is stable if it is easy to control using the tail surface.


Foam Gliders Small-group Hands-on Scientific Inquiry 30-35 minutes

Use the foam gliders from last week. Review first: We added weight to the airplane to move the center of gravity so the airplane flew well.

Tell students their task is to gently bend the back end of the tail (horizontal section) up and the front down. Ask the students what this will do to the airplane performance. Create a hypothesis.

Provide the Weight and Balance Flight Record Sheet for students to use to collect their data. NASA activity page 59 from last week's lesson

If desired, discuss as a group what data to collect before they start. Some possibilities are:

How far did it go?

How long did it stay in the air?

Did it go up or down?

Did it fly straight?

From your judgment, did it fly well?

Test the airplanes again. Add paper clips if needed. Note changes in performance.

After testing discuss the results as a group use the following discussion questions:

How could you tell when the glider was stable?

When the glider is stable how is the center of gravity compared to the center of lift? How do you know?

What did changing the tail do? (creates more balancing tail load and you need more weight to counter it)


Resources

Weight and Balance Flight Record Sheet (1 per student)

Foam strips and binder clips (1 per group);

Gliders from the previous lesson

Paper clips or binder clips


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?


Roll, Pitch, and Yaw Activity

Introduce topic by asking students if they’ve heard of roll, pitch, or yaw before.

Define the three axes airplanes can move about as in drawing:

Roll, Pitch, and Yaw image

Image Credit By Yaw_Axis.svg: Auawise derivative work: Jrvz (Yaw_Axis.svg) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


This website, How things fly? Pitch, Roll, & Yaw, has a good graphic showing roll, pitch, and yaw axes, also shows location of rudder, ailerons, and elevators

How ailerons on the wings control roll - Controlling Roll

How elevators on the horizontal tails control pitch - Controlling Pitch

How the rudder on the vertical tail controls yaw - Controlling Yaw

An airplane’s motion often involves a combination of roll, pitch, and yaw. An example is when an airplane turns, it rolls and yaws both.


Control Surfaces Small-group Hands-on Scientific Inquiry

All airplanes have moving surfaces that control the movement of the airplane by changing the amount or direction of lift created by the surface. The three most common examples are aileron, rudder, and elevator which we focus in this project.

The following animation, , explains control surfaces and how they work (from 2:20 to the end is most relevant to this unit).

This animation, has an animation showing controls, linkages, and control surfaces for a small airplane.


Delta Wing Glider Small-group Hands-on Scientific Inquiry

Directions and materials for this activity can be found in the Flight Guide on pages 60 to 68.

Each group will need a copy of the template found on page 66.

After building the gliders students will need to adjust the weight and balance by attaching a paper clip or binder clip to the fuselage, similar to the weight and balance activity done before. Students should vary the position of the clip until the glider flies the greatest distance in a straight line. They can record the position and distance flown for their attempts in the Delta Wing Glider Record Sheet.

Since the delta wing glider doesn’t have a rear horizontal stabilizer, the ailerons and elevators are combined into one surface called an “elevon”. Pages 67 and 68 of the Flight Guide give worksheets with activities students can use to test different orientations of the glider’s elevons and record the flight path of the glider for each test.

Although the worksheets focus only on the elevons, students could also try changing the orientation of the rudder and observing the effects of the changes.

A possible extension for this activity is for the students to change the size and/or shape of the wings and test the different wing designs to see which ones work the best.


Additional Activities

The following activities for those students/groups who are ahead of time and completed the above activities in the session.

Controlled Flight

Online Flight Simulator

The introduction includes an explanation of roll, pitch, and yaw and how they’re controlled

There are three levels, basic is the easiest.

The program only works on Microsoft Internet Explorer and uses a tool called Unity Player to run. Students will probably need to download and install Unity Player. It’s pretty easy and quick though. Once installed students may need to restart Internet Explorer.

Online Flight Games

Once complete students can use the following flight simulator as a game activity.


Resources

NASA Flight Guide

Delta Wing Glider Record Sheet

Problem Solving Process Diagram

Foam for delta wing glider

Plastic knives to cut out glider

Delta wing glider template (page 66 of Flight Guide)

Delta wing glider worksheets (pages 67 and 68 of the Flight Guide)


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 1

Weight and Balance Effect Record Sheet

Problem Solving Process Diagram

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Foam strips and binder clips (1 per group);

Gliders from the previous lesson

Paper clips or binder clips

Session 2

NASA Flight Guide

Delta Wing Glider Record Sheet

Problem Solving Process Diagram

Foam for delta wing glider

Plastic knives to cut out glider

Delta wing glider template (page 66 of Flight Guide)

Delta wing glider worksheets (pages 67 and 68 of the Flight Guide)