MacCready received his Bachelor's degree studying philosophy
at Yale University, and later studied geology at a variety
of institutions including the University of Wyoming
(MSc, 1993) and Monash University in Melbourne, Australia
the mid-70's he has worked on several projects at AeroVironment,
Inc. When he was 14, he was a test pilot for the human
powered Gossamer Condor. Tyler has also worked on a
16' flying pteradactyl model (QN) and the Sunraycer
solar car. He currently consults on a range of jobs,
including geologic studies, developing devices to generate
energy from ocean waves and instrumenting radio controlled
airplanes to gather data from above. In his spare time
he is engaged in "philosophical tinkering" using robotics
and electronics to explore self-organizing systems.
the Walkalong Glider web
site to learn more about the glider and how it works.
links to this scientist's home page and other related infomation
please see our resources
Camden Ray Smith asked:
I'm a sixth grader and I have been interested in building
planes and gliders since I was 5. I have not been able
to get the information for how the glider stays aloft
and how the air flows around the wing. If you have any
information on that or any books to recommend, please
let me know. Thank you for your help.
Because we are surrounded by air all the time, aerodynamics
is great field to learn about through your own experimentation.
In particular, paper airplanes can teach quite a bit.
I have found that the key to rapid learning is rapid
building, rapid crashing and rapid repairing. One of
the nice things about paper airplanes or simple balsa
or foam models is that you can test your ideas almost
as soon as you think of them. Adding small tufts, such
as pieces of thread or yarn, to a wing is very useful
for seeing what the air is doing. And holding a wing
out of a car window is a cheap way to simulate a wind
it comes to learning the technical principles of aerodynamics,
I think it's worth mentioning that even among the experts
there are some basic disagreements. Seemingly simple
phrases like "airplanes stay up by pushing the air down"
can cause heated debates. The behavior of the air is
complex and often counterintuitive, and of course the
substance itself is invisible. Thus, everyone pictures
it differently, and it's not clear that anyone really
understands it all. I am certain that the best designs
for flying machines have not all been thought of yet,
and the best secrets of flying creatures have not yet
What fields do you graze in to find your best creativity?
What authors, artists, musicians, scientist and other
inventors inspire you?
is a tough question. There are many who inspire me toward
lofty thoughts, but they do not inspire my creativity.
I think my best creativity comes from pondering a problem
for awhile and then being open to the moments of insight
that come out of the blue. If I ever try to force creativity
I get nowhere, but if I lay the groundwork for it by
pondering and posing questions then there's no stopping
the new ideas.
How did you make your walkalong glider, and what materials
did you use?
Walkalong Glider in its current configuration is made
out of expanded polystyrene foam, cut an eighth of an
inch thick and then thermally molded into the appropriate
shape to make it stable enough to fly while still being
you want to try making one yourself there are a variety
of materials you can use. The only requirement is that
the glider ends up light enough so that you can keep
up with it when it flies. We have made Walkalong Gliders
out of notebook paper and tape, balsa and tissue paper,
fast food breakfast containers, foam plates, foam egg
cartons and cardboard.
real key is the trial and error testing and adjusting.
Almost any flying thing will respond to some extent
to the localized updraft your body produces as you walk
forward. The challenge is to make a wing with sufficient
performance and with an appropriate shape. One important
aspect of the Walkalong Glider is that it is a flying
wing. This configuration can be difficult to adjust
for smooth, straight flight, but it is excellent for
riding a small updraft. The wing shape is somewhat similar
to a modern hang glider. In fact, we developed the idea
as children while making paper airplanes that looked
like hang gliders.
your own Walkalong Glider can be a lot of fun but it
can also be frustrating. If it just isn't working out
for you, or if you would like a working version to use
as a starting point for improvements, you can go to
where they are for sale.