Rubberband Helicopters: step-by-step

Picture of Rubberband Helicopters: step-by-step
The rubberband-powered helicopter is easy to construct, and with a little practice it can be flown 20+ feet into the air!

Lesson Plan:

Grade range: 1-5
Prep: 2/5
Setup: 1/5
Cleanup: 1/5

Prep: Cut sheets of cardstock into quarters
Setup: None

Start-of-class lecture
  • Demonstrate the project
  • Explain how it works (see below)
  • Show step-by-step how to build the helicopter
  • Explain how to successfully fly the helicopter
  • Discuss safety

How It Works:
1. Energy is stored in the sport rubber by winding the propeller.
2. When flown, the rubberband rapidly releases its energy by unwinding, which turns both the propeller blade and the paper cutout.
3. The paper cutout pushes against the surrounding air, which creates horizontal air resistance, or drag. This makes it harder for the cutout to spin. Because the cutout does not spin as easily, more energy from the rubberband is released into the propeller, which is much easier to turn. In this way, the paper acts like the rear rotor of a real helicopter
4. As the propeller spins rapidly, it begins to create lift by pushing air downward. With enough energy, the helicopter will fly in whatever direction it is pointing.
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Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials
Materials and Tools:

6" hook nose propellers
Craft sticks
Masking tape

The cost per helicopter is around $0.65 when 50+ propellers are purchased for the bulk discount.

Step 2: Propeller

Picture of Propeller
The propellers from should fit snugly onto a craft stick
not well
puffkin0071 year ago
what size propellers did u use? which one from the catalog?
I build many kinds of model aircraft and because I can't buy propellers and associated parts to hold it and the rubber band, I usually build these from bits of rubbish laying around my room. To build a prop, I cut and bend a piece of plastic of the right strength/flexibility before gluing it to 2 beads and a piece of wire. For the part that holds the propeller shaft I cut a pen lid in half and glued one part to the side of the other to house a stick for a fuselage and poked a hole in the cap for the wire to fit through. Also, have you thought about making a rubberband powered autogyro? I made one a few months back and it works pretty well.
twighahn1 year ago
this would be a great way to have a party activity
WYE_Lance (author)  twighahn1 year ago
Indeed it is - I've conducted this activity for birthday events as well as in the classroom. I've also used it at a local festival as a craft for kids.
artworker1 year ago
Lovely! I can see my students having fun making it!

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