Week 6

Session 2

Guiding Question

  • How can we make sand stand tall?


  • How do we determine the performance of a wing?

  • Can we test an airplane’s design without flying it?


  • Design an Find the design deficiencies of the airplane to make it fly and stay longer

  • Redesign the airplane for the final competition

CT Components

Data Collection

  • Keeping the records of the flight of the designed airplane

Data Analysis

  • Analyzing the data to find out any deficiencies of the designed airplane


  • Redesigning and testing the redesigned airplane

How can we design and build an airplane that flies the farthest and stays the longest in the air?

Final Competition (40 minutes)

The facilitator asks the students to discuss what they learned from designing their planes. Ask the students the steps in the Problem Solving Process and discuss those steps (refer to the Problem Solving Process diagram). Introduce to the students the final contest is deciding whose plane flies the farthest and whose plane stays in the air the longest. Each person flying a plane must abide by the following rules.

Distance Test Rules

  • Each student starts at the starting line and throws their airplane without going over the starting line.

  • Distance is measured where the airplane hits the floor (the hitting point) and not where the airplane slides on the floor.

  • Distance is measured in feet and inches as a straight line between the starting line and the point the airplane hits.

  • Each student or team has three chances to throw their airplane and record/measure the distance each time.

  • All throws will be recorded.

  • The best distance (from the three throws) will be counted and reported.

Flight Test Rules

  • Each student throws their airplane at the starting line.

  • The timer will start when the airplane leaves the students hands and will stop when the airplane first hits the floor and not where it slides and lands.

  • The time will be measured in seconds.

  • Each student/team will have three throws and record the time for each flight time.

  • The best time (of the three throws) will be counted and reported.

How do airplanes fly?

Small-group Hands-on Scientific Inquiry (30 minutes)

The teacher tells the students, “The time has come for you to make your own airplane to be tested in the wind tunnel and flown in our final competition. Each team will make two airplanes for the competitions. One for the distance competition and one for the longest flight time competition. Though, each team member can make an aircraft to test, but for the competition, the team must choose one aircraft for each of the competitions. Once you begin designing your airplanes, use Styrofoam to make new airplane wing, attach the wing to your balsa wood fuselage, and test the wing in the wind tunnel. Then refine your design and test in the wind tunnel until you are satisfied with your design. Then flight test with the propeller attached to the balsa wood fuselage. Refine and test again..” Remind students to think about the size (length, width, thickness) and shape of the wing that will create the best lift over drag ratio for the airspeed that they think the plane will be flying at. They also need to figure out where the best place for the wing is and how to position the tail (horizontal stabilizer) to give the right downward tail force. As a not of caution, once a student has an airplane flying well, have them mark the location of the wing and how the tail is positioned (maybe take a picture) and they can start on a different wing to see if they can improve on their design. This way they did not "mess up" and good design while trying to improve it. The can use the Flight Record Sheet to take notes on their airplane flight data. They will have the next few sessions to complete this task. Below are some resources to use to help spark ideas.

Airplane Design Research

Extra Activity (10-15 minutes)

Students look through pictures of different kinds of airplanes

Students focus on the purpose of each airplane and how that affects the design

Students can take notes in journals.

If desired and if time permits discuss results as a group. Does what you saw here match what you observed in your paper airplane designs?

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?