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Let’s Fly Away

I know I say this all the time- but when I place the word “Airplanes” or “Helicopters” or “Hoop Flyers” on our agenda board the kids are immediately engaged. They love to fly anything. So, let’s fly away!

Now, the reason you are seeing a post here about flying things is also that I started to update an old post today and discovered it was so, so, so outdated.

It included a STEM Challenge called Designing Rockets that uses film canisters. Do you even know what those are? Well, it’s the little plastic container that rolls of camera film came in- many years ago. You cannot even buy it anymore. You might be able to find a supply of empty canisters online, but they are costly.

So, I decided I needed to update more than an old blog post!

STEM Challenge all about flight. Students have three different kinds of flying devices- hoop flyers, helicopters, or planes. They experiment with base models and then change testing variables for second trials, and so on. In the end they build the ultimate flying machine!

So, ta-da! I have updated the resource that contains three flying challenges. I removed the “Designing Rockets” challenge because I do not want someone to grab it and then not be able to find film canisters. So, what did I replace that challenge with?

Another flying challenge!

Hoop Flyers STEM Challenge- students experiment by building the hoop flyer in different ways. They keep a data table and then build the ultimate hoop flyer.

Hoop Flyers

This is a challenge my third and fourth graders really enjoy. They build those funny little contraptions and throw them. You would be surprised at how well they fly.

The challenge begins with experimenting and we change one variable at a time to test the flights.

The students throw the device, measure its distance, and repeat.

Hoop Flyers STEM Challenge- students experiment by building the hoop flyer in different ways. They keep a data table and then build the ultimate hoop flyer.

Data Keeping

I start this experiment off with every team building the same device and we learn to measure the distance and record the data.

Then we switch one thing about the device. The first test is with a one-inch wide paper roll. (The roll on the end of the straws) Next, we try a wider roll. And we talk a lot about why we are changing only one variable.

Can you see the highlighted portions of the data tables in the photo? We record all the measurements of the device and highlight the ONE thing that was changed. This help the third graders understand that we can only test one thing at a time.

After testing for one class period, the students then analyze their data. Which size paper worked best? What kind of paper worked best? What length straw worked best? The challenge is to design the ultimate hoop flyer by combining the best features.

I love this challenge so much- just for all the math that is involved. We measure, plot data, average distances, and analyze the data. And we throw a lot of hoop flyers.

Paper Helicopters - STEM Challenge- students experiment by building the helicopter in different ways. They keep a data table and then build the ultimate paper helicopter.

Helicopters

Paper helicopters is another great flying challenge. Students build a twirly-bird with one piece of paper that is bent into the shapes you can see in the photo. When this is dropped it twirls in a circle- like a maple leaf seed pod.

This challenge does not have a measurement aspect. Instead, we rate the flights based on a rubric. Students can then take a look at their data.

By looking at the flight ratings they can determine what size worked best, what kind of paper worked best, and how much added weight worked best. The challenge is to design and decorate the ultimate helicopter.

Paper Airplanes- STEM Challenge- students experiment by building the airplanes in different ways. They keep a data table and then build the ultimate paper airplane.

Airplanes

Oh, how my fourth graders love paper airplanes. This event begins with a free throw event. Build a plane and fly it! That’s all.

The main purpose of the free throw time is to find the best thrower in your group and the person that can fold the best plane. Part of the controlled variables for the experiment is to have only one person making the plane and one person throwing the pane.

Students throw planes for the experiment using a measuring tape on the floor as their “runway”. We measure and add five flights to average the distance for each kind of plane. After flying the control plane (a plain plane) students may modify the plane by changing ONE thing. Then they fly it five times and average the distance. We repeat this several times.

The challenge is to design the ultimate paper airplane by choosing the best parts of each flight test.

Of course, all these challenges culminate with a flight contest. Every team throws their hoop flyer, helicopter, or airplane to find the one model in the class that is the champ. So exciting!

I updated the Flight Bundle to include Hoop Flyers instead of the Rocket Challenge. I hope you try one of these experiment and design challenges – or even all three of them! Click on any of the images to see the details in my store. I hope you fly away soon!

STEM Challenge all about flight. Students have three different kinds of flying devices- hoop flyers, helicopters, or planes. They experiment with base models and then change testing variables for second trials, and so on. In the end they build the ultimate flying machine!