Quick & Fun Engineering Projects

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These mini projects are designed to add flexibility to your repertoire of lesson plans. Each project requires almost no preparation, can be quickly explained, and uses minimal materials. It's perfect for engaging a student who finishes his or her main project very early, or conduct several of these projects in one lesson rather than focusing on one big project.
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Step 1: Tops

Picture of Tops
Tops can be made by inserting about 2" of a bamboo skewer through the center of a prefab wheel. But it doesn't have to stop there. What if the skewer is longer or shorter? What if you add more wheels? How does having the wheels higher up on the skewer vs. lower affect the performance? Is it possible to add to the top without disrupting it's balance? There is a surprising amount of room for experimentation!

For added longevity, encourage your students to make a top that can out-spin all the others.

Please limit the number of tops your students use to a reasonable number (5 or less).

Wheels can be purchased here.

Step 2: Straw planes and paper aircraft

Picture of Straw planes and paper aircraft
Here are two simple and high performing paper aircraft, as well as an unusual flyer.

The Nakamura Lock - A plane that everyone should know
The Acrobat - Very reliable and stable. Can perform loops, or gracefully glide
Straw plane

It is just as important to trim your paper plane as it is to fold it well and choose a good design. Trimming the plane means making adjustments to improve flight performance. For example, if the nose of the plane is diving downward too soon, try bending the tailing edge of the wings upward a little bit. This will produce more lift. If the plane is tilting sideways and crashing, try bending the wings upwards a bit so that the plane has more of a 'V' shape than a 'T' shape when looking at it head-on. This improves stability.

You can take this a step further by adding a paperclip hook to the nose of the plane and then use a slingshot to launch it!
sciguyhale2 months ago
rimar20008 months ago
Very interesting!

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