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Age Range: 11-14
Duration: 30-59 mins
  • D&T
  • Engineering

Paper aeroplane design

Make a paper plane and find out how far it can fly in this free engineering activity.

In this fun engineering project, designed for KS3 students, learners will take on the role of aerodynamic engineers and delve into the fascinating world of flight. By constructing and testing a paper aeroplane design, students will learn about the principles of aerodynamics and gain hands-on experience in the engineering design process.

Activity: Make a paper plane and find out how far it can fly

This activity is part of a set of STEM resources designed to empower learners to explore seasonal themes while enhancing their knowledge and skills in Design and Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Specifically tailored for the summer season, this resource can be implemented both in a school setting and at home. It centres around the creation and testing of paper aeroplanes, with a focus on their flight distance and duration aloft.

Through this activity, participants will construct a paper aeroplane to help them understand aerodynamics in action. They will subsequently conduct experiments to measure the aeroplane's flight distance and duration in the air.

This activity can serve various educational purposes, such as being a primary lesson to teach learners about modelling and prototyping, a component of a wider scheme of learning covering manufacturing processes and techniques, or an introductory lesson on aerodynamics.

How long will this activity take?

This activity will take approximately 30 - 60 minutes to complete.

What is aerodynamics?

Aerodynamics is the study of the motion of air around objects. It is a branch of fluid dynamics that deals with the interaction of air with solid surfaces. Aerodynamics is important for the design and operation of aircraft, rockets, missiles, and other vehicles that fly through the air.

The four forces that act on an object moving through air are lift, drag, thrust, and weight. Lift is the force that opposes the weight of the object and keeps it in the air. Drag is the force that opposes the motion of the object and slows it down. Thrust is the force that moves the object forward. Weight is the force of gravity pulling the object down.

The shape of an object affects the way air flows around it. This, in turn, affects the forces that act on the object. For example, an aeroplane wing is shaped so that the air flows faster over the top of the wing than the bottom. This creates a difference in air pressure, which produces lift.

Suggested learning outcomes

By the end of this activity, students will understand what "aerodynamics" means and be able to make a paper aeroplane to test to see how well it will fly.

The engineering context

Engineers use models and prototypes to test and visualise their ideas before they are built. For example, they might put a model of an aeroplane or wing in a wind tunnel to see how it will fly. This helps them to make designs that are aerodynamic and efficient, which can save fuel.

Download the free activity sheet below!

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

The activity sheet includes teacher notes, guidance, helpful web links, and links (where appropriate) to the national curriculum in the four devolved UK nations: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

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