Week 4

Session 1

Guiding Question

  • How can we make sand stand tall?


  • What are the different shapes of wings?

  • How do different wing shapes affect the amount of lift and drag created by the wing?


  • Understand different wing shapes and their effects in terms of lift and drag

  • Find and understand the lift to drag ratio for different wing shapes

CT Components

Simulation & Modeling

  • Testing wings and finding the best lift-to-drag ratio


  • Determining the procedure/process to test and find the best lift to drag ratio

Wing Shape

Small-group Hands-on Scientific Inquiry

How does the shape of the wing affect drag and lift? Skinny wing? Fat wing? Double wing? Long wing? Facilitate discussions on what each of these shapes will do to lift and drag. Ask students to create hypotheses on this question.

Research answers to see if hypotheses were correct.

The facilitator can use this resource of airplane designs vs. functions to help discuss the airplane shape and design vs. desired function.

Resources for research wing shape activity:


Small-group Hands-on Scientific Inquiry

Use your staff account to use this simulation

For this activity, students will use the elementary version of NASA’s FoilSim software (Please use the elementary version - lower link to download)

Using FoilSim, find the wing with the best lift-to-drag ratio for a speed of 100 mph, a wing area of 150 sq ft, a weight of 2500 lbs, and an altitude of 2000 ft. The students will need to change Angle, Camber (curve of the wing), and Thickness. They will need to calculate the ratio of each test point. (Try to get the students to think of a logical way to approach this problem – not just randomly change variables.)

First have a discussion on how to solve this problem. There are three variables (three things that can be changed). When one is changed it can affect another. So the students need a plan to figure a smart way to attack this problem (For example: keeping one constant, while optimizing the other two. Then change the one that was constant, while keeping the other two constant and optimize it, and then repeat if necessary).

Use the FoilSim Recording Sheet for recording the simulation results

Angle of Attack and Lift-to-Drag Ratio

Small-group Hands-on Scientific Inquiry

Extra Activity

This activity was also included in week 2 lesson 2, but it is relevant to this session as well if students didn’t do it before.

Another option for an extra activity is to change the initial parameters for the FoilSim problem. For example, set a speed of 400 mph, 200 sq ft, and an altitude of 10,000 ft, and solve for a wing with the best lift over drag ratio. Then the students can see the difference in the wings.


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?