By Ellen B.

STEAM Weekly Challenge

Every week, EVPL will be posting a new STEAM challenge for you to complete from your home! The challenge will run from Monday until Friday. Your parents can help, or you can complete the challenge on your own. We would love to see your creations! Submissions will be posted the following Monday when a new challenge is presented.

Paper Airplane Challenge


This week we are challenging you to experiment to answer this question: Does the folding design of a paper airplane change the distance a paper airplane can travel?

**Note to parents: This challenge has links to YouTube and outside resources for paper airplane designs. You may want to monitor your child’s use of these sites.

Suggested Materials 

  • Paper to make airplanes. Lighter weight paper such as printer paper works best.
  • A tape measure or yardstick.
  • The stopwatch feature on someone’s phone.
  • Something to mark starting and landing points for your flights. You could use a chalk mark on a sidewalk to start at and place a bottle cap or a rock where the plane lands. 
  • If you already have favorite paper airplane designs, go ahead and make those.
  • The kind people at Paco’s Learn and Share Blog and Yourpostcardpal.com have given us permission to share this video demonstration of their paper airplane design with you.


  1. Choose two or three designs and make one of each out of the same paper. Remember, we are observing the flight differences of different styles, not different materials.
  2. Make a chart to record your flight measurements. It could look like this table.

It’s time for flight!

  1. Place a stick or masking tape line or something that marks where you will stand when you fly the plane.
  2. Stand at that marker and fly your first airplane.
  3. Measure from the starting point to where the plane landed.
  4. Record the measurement in your chart.
  5. Do two more flights of the same plane in case one of your flights is a “dud”. 
  6. Repeat the same procedure for each airplane design you made.
  7. Take a look at the measurement you took for each plane. Which one flew the farthest?

The Vocabulary of Flight

The flight of an airplane is governed by 4 forces:

Lift – The shape of an airplane wing makes the force of the air below the wing pushing up stronger than the air above the wing is pushing down.

Thrust – The forward motion of the plane caused by an engine, or your arm as you throw the paper airplane. Thrust makes the airflow over the wings, causing lift. 

Weight (gravity) – An airplane needs to resist the force of gravity pulling it to earth. The lighter the plane’s weight, the better it will resist gravity.

Drag – The force of the wind pushing against the plane as it moves through the air, which will slow down the plane. The pointed nose of a plane helps to reduce the amount of drag.

To learn more about these forces and how they work together to make your plane fly, take a look at this website from Scholastic

Can these words help you understand why or why not your planes are flying well?

Additional Suggestions to Enhance the Challenge

  1. Take one airplane design and make it out of different types of paper (construction paper, cardstock, tissue paper, aluminum foil – whatever you have at home). How would you set up a chart to record your observations? Does the type of paper change the flight of the plane in any way? 
  2. If you flew your planes inside, take them outside for a test flight, or vice versa.  Did being outside (or inside) change the distance your airplanes flew? Which design worked the best? What do you think were the factors that made a difference in the flights? 
  3. Decorate your airplanes with crayons or markers. 
  4. Use the stopwatch feature on someone’s phone, and have a friend measure to see how much time your plane is in the air. You can add a third column to your chart and label it “Time Aloft” and record the seconds the plane stays in the air. Which design stays aloft the longest? Is it the same plane that went the farthest?  
  5. Have a family member fly your plane for you and measure the distance to see if there is a difference in the distance when they throw and when you throw it.

Submission requirements

Send us a picture of your airplanes and let us know which plane flew the farthest to marketing@evpl.org.

First Name:


Farthest Flight:


Ellen B.

Ellen B.

With 8 locations throughout Vanderburgh County, EVPL is ready to discover, explore, and connect WITH you! We encourage you to uncover new things, revisit old favorites, and to engage with us along the way.

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