Are you ready to pilot your own airplane? Well, then take to the skies with this high-flying project! Don't worry: no danger exists here. Your planes will be made out of paper. Let's leave the real planes to pilots -- for now at least.
Which paper airplane design will fly the farthest?
- Measuring tape
- Take three pieces of paper and cut them so that they are all 6 by 6 inch squares.
- Fold all of them in half, and then open them flat.
- Take one piece of paper and fold two corners to the middle of the paper, forming a triangular head.
- Take the wings of the plane and fold it so that it has 3 inch wings. This will be your Model 1.
- Take another piece of paper and let it have no head at all.
- Take the wings of the plane and fold it so that it has 3 ¾ inch wings. This will be your Model 2.
- Take the last piece of paper and fold two corners ½ inch away from the middle of the paper, forming a smaller head with a flat tip.
- Take the wings of the plane and fold it so that it has 3 ½ inch wings. This will be your Model 3.
- Look at all of your plane models. Which do you think will fly the farthest? Write down your guess, also called a hypothesis, in your notebook.
- Take your planes to a wide indoor area with no wind.
- Throw each plane model 5 times.
- Record each planes farthest distance.
- Look over your data. Are the results what you expected?
Model 1 should have flown the farthest distance, and Model 2 should have flown the shortest.
Airplanes work by the laws of aerodynamics, which is a branch of science about the motion of air. Model 1, although having the smallest wings, had the most aerodynamic head. A pointed head, compared to the flat head of Model 3, has less resistance to the air in front of it, allowing the plane to fly longer. Model 2 had the biggest wings, however, without a head; it allowed the most air resistance while it was flying. The four forces on a plane that determine how far it can go are lift, weight, thrust, and drag. Lift is the amount of force air is pushing up on the wings. Weight is the amount of force gravity is pulling the plane down. Thrust is how fast the plane is going forward. Drag is how much resistance is being put onto the plane, slowing it down. The more lift and thrust, the farther it will go. The more weight and drag, the shorter the distance it will travel. Since we were working with the same paper, weight was out of the equation. What if we wanted to test how fast a paper airplane could go? Or which one flew the straightest? There’s a whole world of science out there, you just have to keep experimenting!