Less than $5.00
Approximate Time Required to Complete the Project
One to two hours to make the paper airplanes and collect the data; one day to prepare the science fair display.
To understand forces that cause paper airplanes to fly and determine which type of paper airplane flies the farthest.
- Directions for making paper airplanes
- Masking tape
- Measuring tape
Four forces are at work to make an airplane fly: weight, lift, thrust, and drag. Weight pulls the airplane down. Lift pulls the airplane up. Thrust moves the airplane forward. Drag pulls the airplane back. The same concepts that allow a commercial airplane to fly, cause a paper airplane to fly.
In this investigation, weight, lift, thrust, and drag are considered in an effort to determine which paper airplane flies the farthest.
weight: gravitational force; the force that causes an aircraft to go down
lift: the force that causes an aircraft to lift
thrust: the force that causes an aircraft to move forward
drag: the force that causes an aircraft to pull back
Weight, lift, thrust, and drag affect the flight of airplanes as well as paper airplanes.
- What makes paper airplanes fly?
- Does changing the way a paper airplane is folded, have an affect on the distance it flies?
- Locate directions for making three different types of paper airplanes. Some suggested resources are provided in the bibliography.
- Gather the necessary materials.
- Fold the three different paper airplanes according to the directions?
- Determine an indoor location such as a gymnasium or auditorium to fly the planes. Flying the planes inside will keep the wind from being a factor.
- Use masking tape to mark a starting point on the floor.
- Throw each plane four times. Measure the distance each plane flew and record the distances. Use a calculator to add the distances each airplane flew and divide by four to find the average distance.
Blackburn, Ken and Jeff Lammers. The World Record Paper Airplane Book. New York: Workman Publishing, 1994.
“Alex’s Paper Airplanes” at www.paperairplanes.co.uk
“Learn How to Make 10 Great Paper Airplane Designs with Free, Easy-to-Follow Animated Instructions!” at www.10paperairplanes.com
“The Science of Flight” at www.yesmag.ca/focus/flight/flight_science.html
“Flight” at pbskids.org
“The Wright Brothers & The Invention of the Aerial Age” at Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum website at www.nasm.si.edu/wrightbrothers