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Top Gun Over Moscow

Classroom Activity

To design paper airplanes to meet different flying objectives.

Materials for each team
  • copy of "Paper Warriors of Flight" student handout (PDF or HTML)
  • two sheets of paper
  • A manila folder
  • two sheets of tracing paper or tissue paper
  • five paper clips
  • scissors
  • tape, glue, and paper fasteners
  1. Encourage students to try their hand at building their own finely tuned aircraft out of paper. Before beginning the activity, explain that the "basic" paper airplane design with which students may be familiar can be enhanced with some special design features to meet particular challenges.

  2. Gather the materials and copy and distribute the "Paper Warriors of Flight" student handout to the class.

  3. Divide the class in half. Challenge one group of students to design a plane that will fly in the most accurate possible flight path to strike a 10 cm target from a distance of at least three meters, and challenge the other group to design a plane that will remain in the air the longest possible time.

  4. Afterward, discuss the different design features that helped each team obtain its objective.

Activity Answer

Team 1 Objective
Students should aim to design a long, narrow plane with precisely balanced symmetry. They may find that a plane made of a slightly heavier material, such as the card stock used for manila folders, will resist slight drafts and will fly in a straighter path than one made of lighter-weight paper.

Team 2 Objective
Students should aim for a wide, flat wingspan in their airplane design. The wider the plane's body, the more surface area it has to keep it aloft. With regard to the load, it should be placed near the center of the plane's body. If the mass of the plane's load is kept near the center of the plane, the plane will remain balanced.

Teacher's Guide
Top Gun Over Moscow

Video is not required for this activity