Introduction: Stingray Paper Airplane

About: More than 14 pulsating exhibits make the Children's Museum of Houston one of the top rated in the country. Packed with daily activities and invigorating performances, it’s the place where minds come out to pl…

This is one of the projects for our Instructables: Made In Your Mind (IMIYM) exhibition at the Children’s Museum of Houston . Produced in partnership with Instructables, IMIYM is an exhibit where families work together to build different fun, toy-like projects that help construct knowledge and skills related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics while instilling a “do-it-yourself” attitude in kids so they feel empowered to explore, tinker, and try to make things themselves. To learn more, check out the article here.

For this project, we were inspired by the Super Awesome Paper Airplane Instructable created by quesoman, but there may be others on Instructables that are also similar. Often, the materials and process for building our projects are designed for use with a large number of visitors (we see over 800,000 annually) and the need to ensure safety in a mostly non-facilitated environment. So, yes, many of these projects have room for improvement in both materials and methodology, which is PRECISELY what we want to encourage the kids to do. So please do share your ideas for improvement and modifications!

Step 1: Materials

We are selective in our materials for cost, ease of use, and safety due to our high traffic (800,000 visitors annually). So, for our purposes, this design worked best. But you may have other ideas - please share!

For this Instructable, you will need:

  • 8½” x 11” piece of paper
  • ruler
  • pencil/pen
  • scissors

Step 2: Video for Reference

We offer optional video segments of each step for this project in the actual exhibit. Here is a compilation of all the steps. Please note that there is no sound in the video, as our galleries are quite loud. However, we also have step-by-step written instructions following this.

Step 3: Getting Started

1. Place the piece of paper down in portrait, or vertical, position.

2. Fold the top edge over to the left side, crease, and unfold.

3. Fold the top edge over to the right side, crease, and unfold.

4. Fold the top edge straight down so the top corners meet the ends of the prior creases. Crease and unfold.

5. Holding the left and right sides at the horizontal crease, pull the two sides together and the top edge should naturally come down to create a large triangle.

Step 4: Creating the Hand Hold

6. Fold the right point of the triangle up to the top point, creating another triangle.

7. Fold the bottom right edge of the new triangle (the crease you just made) to the center edge. Crease and unfold.

8. Fold the top right edge of the new triangle to the center edge, crease, and unfold.

9. Refold both creases at the same time while pinching the right point. This will create a tab of paper at the right point. Fold the tab up as you finish creasing everything.

10. Repeat steps 6-9 but with the left side.

Step 5: Cutting Off the Tail

11. Fold the bottom edge up to the bottom edge of the folded area. Crease and unfold.

12. Cut off a strip of paper along the crease.

Step 6: Creating the Tail Fins

13. Fold the strip of paper in half as a hot dog fold.

14. Measure 1 inch from one end along the long edges and make a mark on the top and bottom long edge.

15. Using the points as a reference, draw a ¼ inch line from the open edge down towards the bottom edge. It should not meet with the folded edge.

16. Cut along the line through both open edges.

17. Fold down the flaps and open them up.

Step 7: Final Touches

18. Flip the main part of the plane over.

19. Fold the top point down over the back along the folds there.

20. Fold the plane in half

21. Fold down the wings

22. Insert the uncut end of the strip of paper under the inside tab of the plane to create the tail.

Step 8: Making It Fly!

To fly your plane, give it gentle toss. It is a stunt plane, so it will do loops, rolls, and turns. How hard you throw, the direction you throw, and the angle of the wings will determine its flight.

What's Going On?

Like all planes, the Stingray plane is designed to create lift. As air flows over the wings, it creates a force under the wings that pushes up on it – that’s lift. The faster the wings move through the air, the greater that upward push. In the case of paper airplanes, since there isn’t a continuous thrust or push, the plane slows down. This results in decreasing lift and gravity pulls the plane to the ground. In the case of the Stingray Plane, its shape causes the air to flow differently around it, allowing it to do different tricks in the air.

This is a stunt plane, meaning that it won’t always fly straight – it wasn’t designed to do that. It will turn, bank, and do other tricks instead. To get it to go as straight as possible, make sure the wings and tail flaps are as straight as possible and perpendicular to the body of the plane before giving it a gentle toss.

Try This!

  • Try changing the size of the tail or adding flaps to the wings. How do these affect its flight?
  • Try using other kinds of paper like cardboard or newspaper and see how different materials affect the flight.

Remix Contest

Participated in the
Remix Contest

Teach It! Contest Sponsored by Dremel

Participated in the
Teach It! Contest Sponsored by Dremel