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Carole Janda O. A. Thorp Scholastic Academy
6024 W. Warwick Ave.
Chicago IL 60634
Demonstrate skill in hypothesis formulation, identification and control of
variables, data collection, organization and interpretation of data.
Discover and understand the basic principles of aerodynamics, including
the roles and identity of natural forces involved.
Discover how the force of GRAVITY is overcome by the curved shape of an
airplane wing and air pressure.
Discover why air pressure is lower moving across a curved surface vs.
a straight surface, creating LIFT. (Bernoulli's Principle).
Discover why an airplane will stall if there is too much air pressure
under the wing.
Discover how THRUST force is used to overcome DRAG force, caused by
paper - ditto, 2 sheets per person markers or crayons
- 2cm. x 8cm., 1 per person small box fan
- newsprint for graph, 1 per team cool air vaporizer
- cups, 2 per person scissors
- clips, 5 per team cellophane tape
launcher, wood, with rubber band and thumb tack
Without any verbal explanation, the teacher will fly a paper airplane four
times, measureing and recording the data on chalkboard after each flight. (The
first flight will have 0 paper clips; the second, 1 paper clip; the third, 3
paper clips; and the fourth, 5 paper clips.) The teacher will make a graph
showing the distance of each flight then ask three questions, "What did you
see?" "What was happening?" "What does the chart show?" The students will be
able to read the graph; identify the source of the data; and then label it to
show "Average horizontal distance".
The students will be encouraged to hypothesize the reason some airplanes
flew straight, others either went to the right or to the left. (Added weight,
and uneven folds of the airplane.)
The students will be grouped into teams of not more than four.
Activity 1: The students will make identical airplanes from one sheet of ditto
paper. Step 1, fold paper in half, the long side. Step 2, turn paper over,
like an open book (spine up). Step 3, fold upper corners toward center fold.
Step 4, fold down set of corners toward bottom of paper. Step 5, repeat Step 3.
Step 6, fold back along original fold. Place folded portion on bottom. Step 7,
bring one wing portion down to fold, starting at the nose carefully fold down to
make a wing, repeat for second wing. (It is important that the creases are even
and sharp.) The students will be given an opportunity to test their planes for
air worthiness. Following this test flight, they will then make another
airplane. Each team member will test their planes to determine the MOST air
worthy plane to be used in the next activity.
Activity 2: Teams will repeat the teacher's demonstration, using only ONE plane.
However, they will fly three trials of each, and record the distance on a data
sheet. Using the data, a graph of the "Average distance of each flight," will
be made. The students will explain their graphs and compare them to the other
graphs. (The added weight affects the distance because of GRAVITY, and the
placement of the clips on the keel of the plane, = center of gravity)
Activity 3: Each student will hold the end of a 2cm x 8cm piece of paper to
their mouth and blow over the top of the paper. (The end of paper rises.) Now
blow underneath, what happens? Measure 3cm from the short end of the paper and
fold, tape the ends. Drape the untaped end between the forefingers of each
hand, now blow over the top. What happens? Blow hard across the flat side.
Activity 4: Pass out 2 paper cups to each student and a pair of scissors per
team. Students should hold the cups about 5cm (2") from their mouth and blow
between the rims of the two cups. (The inner cup will pop out.) Cut out the
bottom of one of the cups, place it on the bottom of the other cup, and blow
again. The cup will no longer pop out. (Air pressure is lost through the
bottom of the cup.)
Activity 5: Using a box fan, blow vapor from vaporizer over a wing model to
show how air travels over the curved and straight surfaces of an airplane wing.
Students will discuss what they saw. Repeat the demonstration. Raise the front
edge of the wing and repeat the vapor (air) flow demonstration. Discuss and
repeat. For the third demonstration, raise the front edge so that the vapor
hits the bottom of the wing. Ask students what would happen if this was an
airplane? (Plane would stall and fall). Using an overhead projector
transparency with the three wing positions, ask a student to show the path of
air using arrows. Is this similar or different from the paper cup?
Activity 6: Introduce Bernoulli's Principle. It takes more energy to move over
a curved surface, less pressure causes LIFT FORCE. Gas, steam, water, and other
liquids are similar to air.
Activity 7: Using a model glider placed on a table or desk, ask students to
hypothesize why the plane isn't moving. Push it, why isn't it lifting. What is
holding it down? (GRAVITY) Ask students to explain how Bernoulli's discovery
applied to counteract the FORCE OF GRAVITY. Have a student hold a sheet of
paper in his outstretched hand, then have him run with it. The paper will LIFT.
Ask the students to explain how this is applied to the glider.
Activity 8: If the glider is pushed it will move and then stop. Ask students
to explain how friction causes the glider to stop. This is called DRAG FORCE.
How does an airplane overcome DRAG? What causes an airplane to move? A
propeller or jet engine creates THRUST FORCE. When a plane speeds up, THRUST is
greater than DRAG. THRUST is the force that pushes an airplane forward through
Aerodynamics is the study of air as it moves around objects. Discuss other
areas where Bernoulli Principle is applied. (Automobiles, boats, trains have
smooth surfaces, reducing friction, this is called "streamlining"). Engineers
designing skyscrapers, suspension bridges, automobile carburetors, pumps, and
water driven turbines, all use aerodynamics.
Make a diagram of air currents, using arrows to show the direction of the
air above and below an airplane wing. Indicate the FORCES involved, and where
more air pressure, and less air pressure is present.
Make a diagram of an airplane. Show the direction of the four main FORCES
that affect flight. Pair the forces. Describe the balance of forces.
5 points - Identification of less air pressure over the curved surface of
the wing, and more air pressure under the wing. The direction of the forces of
GRAVITY, LIFT, THRUST, AND DRAG, are correctly drawn. GRAVITY vs. LIFT, and
THRUST vs. DRAG are paired. A correct description of how LIFT and THRUST balance
GRAVITY and DRAG as opposing forces.
4 points - Indicates an understanding, but has not described how the forces
are balanced, or has not identified the air pressure.
3 points - Has not indicated the correct direction of the forces of
GRAVITY, LIFT, THRUST, and DRAG, but has described how the forces are balanced.
2 points - Has not identified the air pressure.
1 points - Has not written anything, has only drawn arrows.
Model Science Supplement for Magnet Schools and Magnet Programs K-6. Chicago:
Board of Education, 1991, pp.270-275.
SuperScience Red, v.4, n.6. New York: Scholastic, March, 1992.
Urquhart, David. The Airplane and How it Works. New York: Henry Z. Walck, 1971
World Book Encyclopedia, v.1. Chicago: Field Enterprises, 1973.