How can we make sand stand tall?
What is the angle of attack?
How does the angle of attack or angle of incidence affect lift and drag?
Define angle of attack
Define angle of incidence
Describe how the angle of attack and angle of incidence affect flight
Angle of attack & Angle of incidence
Drawing conclusion on different angles of incidence vs. airplane performance
Making a guilder and testing different angles of incidence
Angle of Attack Activity
Small-group Hands-on Scientific Inquiry (15-20 minutes)
Watch the Angle of Attack video.
In this activity, students will build and test gliders with three different angles of incidence. The angle of incidence is defined as shown in the picture. The longitudinal axis of the airplane is an imaginary line from the nose of the airplane to the tail. For more information on the angle of incidence, see this site.
If gliders with different angles of incidence are thrown straight (so the motion is parallel to the longitudinal axis), then changing the angle of incidence will result in a different angle of attack for the glider.
Each team will build three gliders using the template on page 59 of the NASA Guide.
Each glider built by the team must have a different angle of incidence, so they need to determine the three angles they are going to use and then use a protractor to mark it out on the template.
Angle of Attack
Discuss with students what they think will happen with the different angles. Try to get a hypothesis of what will happen.
Perform an initial test of the gliders. Why do they not perform well? What can they do to make the airplane fly better? Facilitate a discussion leading toward adding weight (paper clips) to the nose. Does this help? Determine a hypothesis on why? (An explanation will be covered in the next lesson)
Test the gliders: Try to throw the gliders exactly the same way (or run at the same speed and just let it go) and record what happens. Does it go up, or down, how does it stay in the air, how far does it go? Add weight to optimize performance.
Use the Angle of Attack Worksheet to record results.
Have students draw conclusions from the testing:
Do gliders with different angles of incidence need different amounts of weight to make them stable?
What are the differences in the flight performance due to different angles of incidence? (When the airplane is first thrown, it will have more velocity. Consequently, airplanes with higher angles of incidence will have greater lift and drag with the higher velocity)
The Aviation History Online Museum Explains angle of attack; this has links at bottom to pages on relative wind and angle of incidence
Boeing: What is angle of attack? has a good drawing showing angle of attack
Angle of Attack and Lift explains how angle of attack relates to pressures above and below the wing
Problem Solving Process Diagram
Visual Angle of Attack Indicator video showing design and use of a visual angle of attack indicator (from about 1:20 to 4:20 is probably most helpful)
Template for glider (1 per student) from page 59 of NASA Guide
Styrofoam for glider (1 per student)
Plastic knives to cut out wing shape (1 paper student)
Glue and Tape
End of Session Reflection and Debriefing
Teacher briefly explains the computational thinking (CT) skill embedded in the Problem Solving Process Diagram. Using the problem solving process diagram, the teacher will ask students to identify what kind of problem solving skills/process/computational thinking they used in this session and explain how they used it. The following are some sample questions that can guide the debrief.
What did I learn today?
What problem solving skills/processes or CT components in this diagram did I use today?
How did I use the problem solving skills/processes/CT components?