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 8


Session 1
Questions

How can I redesign my glider for best flight in distance and airtime?

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Goal

To understand the design process


Activities

Redesign and test gliders

Record results


Resources

Glider materials


Outcomes

Glider design and test results

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Session 2
Questions

Who designed the glider for the best distance and airtime?

Schedule 60 minutes for the team competition - then 20 Summary / Debriefing/Student focus group


Goal

Competition of the designs


Activities

Competition

Winner celebration


Resources

Gliders


Outcomes

Glider design and competition results

Group Debriefing

How do airplanes fly?


How can we design and build an airplane that flies the farthest and stays the longest in the air? 40 minutes Final Competition

The facilitator asks the students to discuss what they learned from designing their planes. Ask the students the steps in the Problem Solving Process and discuss those steps (refer to the Problem Solving Process diagram). Introduce to the students the final contest is deciding whose plane flies the farthest and whose plane stays in the air the longest. Each person flying a plane must abide by the following rules.


Each student starts at the starting line and throws their airplane without going over the starting line.

Distance is measured where the airplane hits the floor (the hitting point) and not where the airplane slides on the floor.

Distance is measured in feet and inches as a straight line between the starting line and the point the airplane hits.

Each student or team has three chances to throw their airplane and record/measure the distance each time.

All throws will be recorded.

The best distance (from the three throws) will be counted and reported.




Each student throws their airplane at the starting line.

The timer will start when the airplane leaves the students hands and will stop when the airplane first hits the floor and not where it slides and lands.

The time will be measured in seconds.

Each student/team will have three throws and record the time for each flight time.

The best time (of the three throws) will be counted and reported.


How do airplanes fly? Small-group Hands-on Scientific Inquiry 30 minutes

The teacher tells the students, “The time has come for you to make your own airplane to be tested in the wind tunnel and flown in our final competition. Each team will make two airplanes for the competitions. One for the distance competition and one for the longest flight time competition. Though, each team member can make an aircraft to test, but for the competition, the team must choose one aircraft for each of the competitions. Once you begin designing your airplanes, use Styrofoam to make new airplane wing, attach the wing to your balsa wood fuselage, and test the wing in the wind tunnel. Then refine your design and test in the wind tunnel until you are satisfied with your design. Then flight test with the propeller attached to the balsa wood fuselage. Refine and test again..” Remind students to think about the size (length, width, thickness) and shape of the wing that will create the best lift over drag ratio for the airspeed that they think the plane will be flying at. They also need to figure out where the best place for the wing is and how to position the tail (horizontal stabilizer) to give the right downward tail force. As a not of caution, once a student has an airplane flying well, have them mark the location of the wing and how the tail is positioned (maybe take a picture) and they can start on a different wing to see if they can improve on their design. this way they did not "mess up" and good design while trying to improve it. The can use the Flight Record Sheet to take notes on their airplane flight data. They will have the next few sessions to complete this task. Below are some resources to use to help spark ideas.


Airplane Design Research Extra Activity 10-15 minutes

Students look through pictures of different kinds of airplanes

Students focus on the purpose of each airplane and how that affects the design

Students can take notes in journals

If desired and if time permits discuss results as a group. Does what you saw here match what you observed in your paper airplane designs?


Resources

Flight Testing Record Worksheet

Problem Solving Process Diagram

Timer

Ruler

Color Tape (for marking the starting line)

Foam Glider

Instructables Foam Glider

Straw and Plate Glider

DIY Foam Glider

McEagle Styrofoam Glider


End of Session Reflection and Debriefing 5 minutes

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?


How far and long in the air can my airplane fly? Competition Day

The facilitator says, “today we are having our official contest. I know everyone worked hard on their design and now it is time to see who had the best design! Before we begin, each group will show us your designed planes and tell us how you decided on that design.


Final Contest Overview 30 minutes

The first part of the contest is the distance test. Each student contestant must stand behind the line and throw the plane without going over the line. If the thrower goes over the starting line, the throw is disqualified. Three disqualifications will cost the thrower’s team one opportunity to throw. Each team has three throws. The longest distance in feet and inches is the one that counts for the contest. The throw is recorded by where the plane hits the ground first and not where the plane slides and lands. Use the provided worksheet to record the distance results.

The next part of the contest is the airtime test. The student will throw the plane from behind the line without going over the line. The time starts when the plane leaves the students hands and ends when the plane hits the floor. The sliding on the floor does not count towards the time. The time will be measured in seconds. Each student will have three throws and the best time will count.

Use the provided worksheet to record all results.

Group Flight One Flight Two Flight Three

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Distance Test

Each student starts at the starting line and throws their airplane without going over the starting line. Distance is measured where the airplane hits the floor and not where the airplane slides on the floor. Distance is measured in feet and inches. Each student or team has three chances to throw their airplane and the best distance will be counted.

Distance Contest Results Sheet


Each student starts at the starting line and throws their airplane without going over the starting line.

Distance is measured where the airplane hits the floor (the hitting point) and not where the airplane slides on the floor.

Distance is measured in feet and inches as a straight line between the starting line and the point the airplane hits.

Each student or team has three chances to throw their airplane and record/measure the distance each time.

All throws will be recorded.

The best distance (from the three throws) will be counted and reported.



Flight Test

Each student throws their airplane at the starting line. The timer will start when the airplane leaves the students hands and will stop when the airplane first hits the floor and not where it slides and lands. The time will be measured in seconds. Each student will have three throws and the best time will count.

Flight-time Contest Results Sheet


Each student throws their airplane at the starting line.

The timer will start when the airplane leaves the students hands and will stop when the airplane first hits the floor and not where it slides and lands.

The time will be measured in seconds.

Each student/team will have three throws and record the time for each flight time.

The best time (of the three throws) will be counted and reported.



Resources

Distance Contest Results Sheet

Flight-time Contest Results Sheet

Winner Certificate

Participation Certificate


End of Session Reflection and Debriefing 5-10 minutes

Review all test recordings and declare winners! Announce all the winners. Discuss why we think those planes were the winners? What is it about their design that helped achieve the best flight?