Week 3

Session 2

Guiding Question

  • How can we make sand stand tall?


  • What are the different ways an airplane can turn?

  • What changes do you make to an airplane to make it turn or go up or go down?


  • Define roll, pitch, and yaw regarding the three motions of an airplane.

  • Explain how flight control surfaces control the motion of an airplane.

CT Components


  • Airplane’s turn with aileron, rudder, and elevator


  • Effects of different axes


  • Building and testing a glider with control surfaces in different positions

Roll, Pitch, and Yaw Activity

Introduce topic by asking students if they’ve heard of roll, pitch, or yaw before.

Define the three axes airplanes can move about as in drawing.

This website, How things fly? Pitch, Roll, & Yaw, has a good graphic showing roll, pitch, and yaw axes, also shows location of rudder, ailerons, and elevators

An airplane’s motion often involves a combination of roll, pitch, and yaw. An example is when an airplane turns, it rolls and yaws both.

Image Credit By Yaw_Axis.svg: Auawise derivative work: Jrvz (Yaw_Axis.svg) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Control Surfaces

Small-group Hands-on Scientific Inquiry

All airplanes have moving surfaces that control the movement of the airplane by changing the amount or direction of lift created by the surface. The three most common examples are aileron, rudder, and elevator which we focus in this project.

The following animation, How do Airplanes fly? explains control surfaces and how they work (from 2:20 to the end is most relevant to this unit).

This animation, How it Works Flight Controls, has an animation showing controls, linkages, and control surfaces for a small airplane.

Delta Wing Glider

Small-group Hands-on Scientific Inquiry

Directions and materials for this activity can be found in the Flight Guide on pages 60 to 68.

Each group will need a copy of the template found on page 66.

After building the gliders students will need to adjust the weight and balance by attaching a paper clip or binder clip to the fuselage, similar to the weight and balance activity done before. Students should vary the position of the clip until the glider flies the greatest distance in a straight line. They can record the position and distance flown for their attempts in the Delta Wing Glider Record Sheet.

Since the delta wing glider doesn’t have a rear horizontal stabilizer, the ailerons and elevators are combined into one surface called an “elevon”. Pages 67 and 68 of the Flight Guide give worksheets with activities students can use to test different orientations of the glider’s elevons and record the flight path of the glider for each test.

Although the worksheets focus only on the elevons, students could also try changing the orientation of the rudder and observing the effects of the changes.

A possible extension for this activity is for the students to change the size and/or shape of the wings and test the different wing designs to see which ones work the best.

Additional Activities

The following activities for those students/groups who are ahead of time and completed the above activities in the session.

Controlled Flight

Online Flight Simulator

The introduction includes an explanation of roll, pitch, and yaw and how they’re controlled

There are three levels, basic is the easiest.

The program only works on Microsoft Internet Explorer and uses a tool called Unity Player to run. Students will probably need to download and install Unity Player. It’s pretty easy and quick though. Once installed students may need to restart Internet Explorer.

Online Flight Games

Once complete students can use the following flight simulator as a game activity.


  • NASA Flight Guide

  • Delta Wing Glider Record Sheet

  • Problem Solving Process Diagram

  • Foam for delta wing glider

  • Plastic knives to cut out glider

  • Delta wing glider template (page 66 of Flight Guide)

  • Delta wing glider worksheets (pages 67 and 68 of the Flight Guide)

End of Session Reflection and Debriefing

5-10 minutes

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?