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By Audra D.

These straw gliders may not look like regular airplanes, but they can still fly! This experiment is fun for all ages and can be completed with some simple household materials. You can even try out multiple designs and have your very own plane racing competition. Be sure to talk together about the science behind why this experiment works, and don’t be afraid to explore!

Supplies Needed 

  • 1 Smoothie straw
  • 1 piece of construction paper
  • Ruler 
  • Scissors 
  • Any kind of tape

Instructions

  1. Use your ruler to measure three strips of paper that are 1 inch across, and 4 inches long. Cut these strips out after you have measured them.
  2. Tape two of your strips of paper end to end to make one longer strip. Now tape this strip together to form a large circle.
  3. Take your smaller strip of paper, and tape it into a circle. You can overlap the ends a little bit if you need to.
  4. Tape your straw to the insides of the paper circles. One circle should be on each end (See picture for example.)
  5. Toss your creation to see if it will fly!

Questions to Ask

  • What happens if the paper circles are smaller? Experiment by trying a different size with your leftover paper.
  • Can the plane fly in both directions? Try throwing your plane with the large circle in the front and then the large circle in the back.
  • What if your plane is weighed down? Try clipping a paper clip to one of your hoops to see if it can still fly.

How it Works

Your straw airplane is using the four forces of flight! Your arm provides the thrust or the force exerted when you throw it. The curved surface of the paper gives the airplane lift. The shape of the circles helps to reduce the force of the drag that is trying to drag the plane backward. Eventually, gravity pulls the airplane back to Earth. These same four forces are present when real airplanes fly thousands of feet in the air!

Audra D.
Experience Facilitator

Audra D.


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