Introduction: Glider Creations

This is a project I do with the students, 1st grade to 6th grade, every year because they love it. And I love it, too. Why?

This project is full of opportunities for creativity and experimentation. Possibilities are endless! The motto for this project is - Fail Spectacularly!

I ask the students to push the envelope and come up with something very different from others. I challenge them, and every year, they meet the challenge in spades. I also cover Newton's Second Law with the students and explain the relationship between force, mass, and acceleration (Force = Mass x Acceleration).

I get the gliders from the nearby hobby store, but you can get them online, too. I usually buy single wing planes, but in the last couple of years, I've bought bi-planes. These are a little more complicated, but it's also more interesting to mix up the kits a bit.

A warning, though. These glider kits are rather fragile. One student broke the wing in four different places. So, I usually start off by telling them to be extra careful, and in lower grades, I show them how I shimmy the wing into the glider body.

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies.

  • A wooden glider kit
  • A piece of cardstock paper or cardboard
  • Scotch tape
  • Scissors

Step 2: Assemble Glider.

  • Open the kit.
  • Follow instructions and put it together.

The wing can slide in the slot, so try the forward position as well as back position. Experiment and see which wing position makes the glider fly better.

Note: Please be careful when putting the kit together. Try to slide the wing in the slot and shimmy it in a little by little.

Step 3: Fly Glider & Observe.

Take the glider outside and fly it several times and observe how it flies.

This particular glider does loops.

Step 4: Create Your Own.

I have one rule for this project. The students cannot trace or copy the parts exactly.

Make them longer, shorter, wider, narrower, curvier, etc.

Push the envelope and fail spectacularly!

Step 5: Additional Notes.

Here are some examples of what the students created. What do you think?

Try some of your own and see how they fly.

Then try, again.

Sure, not all these planes fly well, but the point of this project is for them to make observations and make improvements or come up with a completely different design. Again, some highly motivated students can come up with three or four completely different designs in about 90 minutes of project time.

Have fun!