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Age Range: 11-14
Duration: 0-29 mins
  • D&T
  • Physics

Aerodynamics timeline

Learning about the history of aerodynamics

In this lesson, students will learn about the development of aerodynamics through history.

It’s an engaging starter activity where students will be introduced to the concepts behind aerodynamic design, including how simple shapes can be tested in a wind tunnel and through water.

Learners will explore the basic principles of aerodynamics by looking at familiar products (such as cars) that have been designed for speed. As part of the lesson, students will examine how these products have evolved and how aerodynamic principles have influenced these developments. They’ll be asked to identify common features across different products and understand how these features all contribute to speed.

This is one of a set of resources developed to aid the teaching of the secondary national curriculum, particularly KS3, supporting the teaching in science or design and technology (DT).

Activity: Learning about the history of aerodynamics

This activity will ask students to research images of a selection of cars and aeroplanes from the 20th and 21st centuries (without looking at exactly when they were made). Students will then try to arrange these images in chronological order and explain their decision-making process based on the aerodynamics of each vehicle.

Download our activity overview for a detailed lesson plan for teaching students about the history of aerodynamics.

The engineering context

From making the fastest Formula One car, to designing more fuel-efficient aeroplanes, aerodynamics is a fundamental skill for mechanical engineers. By exploring the evolution of cars and airplanes, students will develop an appreciation for how advancements in aerodynamics technology have shaped the look and design of many cars and aeroplanes over the years.

Suggested learning outcomes

Students will be able to identify trends in the development of aeroplanes and cars. They will gain an understanding of what influenced these developments and be able to explain the role of aerodynamics as part of this.

Download our activity sheet and other teaching resources

The activity sheet includes teachers’ notes, useful web links, and links (where appropriate) to the national curriculum in each of the four devolved nations; England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

All activity sheets and supporting resources are free to download, and all the documents are fully editable, so you can tailor them to your students’ and your schools’ needs.

Download our classroom lesson plan and presentation below.

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