Physics Students Design Model Airplanes
Sample planes I showed the students before they began the design process.
Early January of 2010 I helped a science teacher friend with an assignment for his physics students to design,
construct, and fly a rubber powered model airplane. I helped for two class sessions; the first to show sample planes
I had built and explain design approaches such as hi-aspect ratio, dihedral, winglets, target weight, and wing area.
Students were given suggested formulas for sizing the surfaces based on the wing area. I then returned
the end of the week to help with the flying.
After designing on paper, students built their airplanes using many of the ideas I had given them and coming up
with a few of their own.
Picture on the left, student forgot the vertical fin, hopefully this was corrected. Students were proud of what
they had created.
Students were team players, changing off the stooge duties. Unfortunately they had to fly in the auditorium because
no gyms were available. It was too dark for good pictures.
A couple of years before this, the physics students were given the same assignment but they had less instruction
on what was important for a good flight. There were many clever ideas, but not many of these planes flew very well.
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