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Paper Airplanes: Why Flaps and Folds Matter

by Teisha Rowland, PhD
Active Time
10-20 minutes
Total Project Time
10-20 minutes
Key Concepts
aerodynamics, forces, drag, physics
Paper planes folded from different types of paper.

Introduction

Have you ever wondered what makes a paper plane fly? Some paper planes clearly fly better than others. But why is this? One factor is the kind of design used to build the plane. In this activity, you will get to build a paper plane and change its basic design to see how this affects its flight. There is a lot of cool science in this activity, such as how forces act on a plane so it can fly, so get ready to start folding!

Credits

Teisha Rowland, PhD, Science Buddies
This activity is not appropriate for use as a science fair project. Good science fair projects have a stronger focus on controlling variables, taking accurate measurements, and analyzing data. To find a science fair project that is just right for you, browse our library of over 1,150 Science Fair Project Ideas or use the Topic Selection Wizard to get a personalized project recommendation.

Materials

  • Sheet of paper, standard 8 ½ inch by 11 inch size
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Large open area in which to fly a paper plane, such as a long hallway, school gym, baseball field, or basketball court. If you are flying your paper plane outside, try to do it when there is not any wind.
  • Something to make at least a one foot line with, such as a long string, another ruler, masking tape, rocks, or sticks.
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Active Time
10-20 minutes
Total Project Time
10-20 minutes
Key Concepts
aerodynamics, forces, drag, physics