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Paperplane Flying Circus

Grade Level: 4 - 6

Objective:

To investigate the streamlined shape of aircraft.

Materials:

3 pieces of paper size 8 1/2" x 11
Tape
Scissors

Procedure:

1. Roll a sheet of paper into a tube 1" in diameter. Tape it to retain its shape.

2. Roll another sheet of paper but instead of taping it, slip it into the taped roll.

3. Take another sheet of paper and cut it into 2 pieces lengthwise. The smaller piece should be 1/3 the size of the larger one. Make a wing using the larger piece of paper. Match the long edges together and tape the curved side forward to the body tube. Be sure that the inside tube is left free to slide in and out.

4. Use the smaller piece of paper to make a tail. Cut the paper so that it is the right size. Fold the ends of the tail up. Tape the tail on the opposite end of the tube from the wing, making sure that the inside tube is free to move.

5. Try to fly the airplane. Does one of the planes work? Compare its shape with other students. Have students continue making adjustments until all their airplanes fly.

Follow-Up Discussion:

There are four forces that determine whether or not an airplane will fly. These are (1) gravity; (2) lift; (3) drag; (4) thrust. Gravity tends to pull an airplane to the earth when it is in flight. In order for an airplane to become airborne and to stay in the air, it must create a lifting force greater than the pull of gravity. Lift is created by a change of air pressure around the airplane's wing. When an airplane is on the ground, the air pressure above and below the wing is the same. As the airplane begins move, the pressure changes. The faster it goes, the greater the lift beneath its wings. When the air pressure beneath the wings becomes greater than the weight of the airplane, the airplane takes off. Lift occurs only if the airplane is moving forward in the air. An engine is needed to provide the thrust for forward motion. Enough thrust must be generated to oppose the drag. Propellers and jet engines are used to increase the thrust.