We love our experiment and design challenges- especially the ones that involve flying anything. Hoop Flyers turned out to be highly engaging and so full of learning.
I saw these little Hoop Flyer gadgets somewhere and knew this would be simple to build. The problem was how to make this a STEM Challenge!
I decided to add some science to the madness and we created an experiment.
First, we had to explore. Every student built a simple hoop flyer and then just threw them all over the room. Nothing like throwing things in a large room to get kids excited.
I know you have questions. Let’s see if I can answer some of them!
What is a hoop flyer?
Believe it or not, those are hoop flyers in the photo. It takes two strips of paper, some tape, and a straw.
You hold the flyer by the straw and give it a good push forward. It will glide smoothly through the air, sometimes traveling quite a distance. If you throw it too hard it seldom flies well. A gentle push seems to work best.
What is the experiment?
We tested modifications to the original design. The first version was a regular straw and 2 one-inch paper strips. One of the strips is longer than the other.
I learned quickly that students were going to need some guidance with testing the changes in the hoop flyer.
They needed to test ONE modification (or variable) at a time.
Kids just don’t get this. They want to use heavier paper, add three paperclips, a shorter straw, and then fly it. It really took some discussion to get them to understand that only one variable is changed. So I came upon a genius idea.
What about the variables?
We all started together and tested the original version of the hoop flyer. Each team filled in a data table listing the distances the flyers flew.
Then we changed ONE part of the flyer. We used wider paper. Students built a second flyer and tested it.
We highlighted the ONE variable that was being changed. This made the kids focus on how that one change affected the flyer.
We just kept doing this for the whole class. Make a change, highlight the one change, and throw the flyer. We tested wider paper, shorter paper loops, different kinds of paper, different kinds of straws, and different lengths of straws.
How did we measure the distances?
We do this all the time! We use the floor tiles which are 12 inch squares. Students throw the hoop flyer (or paper airplane) and count the number of tiles flown. That number is multiplied by 12 and the students use a ruler to add the few inches that are in the middle of a tile.
In this photo, you can see a pair counting off the tiles down our hallway!
What worked best?
So, which variables produced the best flyers? Well, that was the point of the whole challenge. Each team analyzed their own data to decide which modifications worked best.
The next step was to combine features that seemed to work best. Kids did exactly what I thought they would do.
They chose everything!
If card stock worked well, and two paperclips worked well, and a milkshake straw worked great, then all of those should make a fabulous flyer! Right?
Not really! Y’all this was the most eye-opening (accidental) lesson ever. EVER!
A student said it best:
“We should have been making a new flyer with the things that would make it BEST, not with ALL the things!” Yep! This little Experiment and Design Hoop Flyer Challenge taught us a lot!
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