Wright Again

Wright Again

The Toy Helicopter - 1878
History - Page 1 of 1

The History: "Our first interest began when we were children. Father brought home to us a small toy actuated by a rubber spring which would lift itself into the air. We built a number of copies of this toy, which flew successfully. By "we" I refer to my brother Wilbur and myself. But when we undertook to build the toy on a much larger scale it failed to work so well. The reason was not understood by us at the time, so we finally abandoned the experiments." ..... Orville Wright

In 1920, Orville Wright recalled how and when he and his brother, Wilbur, first became interested in flight. Their father, Reverend Milton Wright, was a minister in the United Brethren Church and often travelled on church business. Their father returned from a trip and surprised the boys with this small toy. Wilbur was about 12 years old and Orville was 8 years old. This was the beginning of their life-long interest in flight.

Just like you, the Wright brothers liked to play! When you play a sport, a musical instrument, or with a toy, you gain experience and improve your skills through practice. Although you may not have thought of it this way, when you play you are a "natural experimenter."

If you play soccer and the ball goes out of bounds each time you hit it what do you do? YOU EXPERIMENT! You might hit the ball with less force, in a slightly different direction, or add some spin on the ball! You would try different techniques, see which ones work and which ones do not work, until you figure out the best method.

Let's take a different example. Maybe you like to build paper airplanes. You build one and play—or actually you "experiment" with it. You may try to fly the paper airplane with one wing bent down. What if you add some weight to the nose or tail with a paper clip? How does the plane react?

When you play you are a natural experimenter and you gain some of the same skills that scientists and engineers use.

You can build this helicopter in our Student Activity.

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Last modified: Sun Mar 04 10:53:09 PST 2001
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Photograph of the Wright Brothers courtesy of the Wright State University - Dunbar Library.
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