Winglets are the short vertical "fins" at the wingtips of some airplanes. Have you ever wondered why they are there? If you have access to a wind tunnel, you can build model airfoils with and without winglets and see for yourself. If you're really ambitious, you can also build your own wind tunnel.
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Very Long (1+ months)
Experience building airfoils, access to a wind tunnel for testing.
Specialty Items (wind tunnel for testing airfoils)
Just one sheet of paper can lead to a whole lot of fun. How? Paper planes! All you have to know is how to fold and you can have a simple plane in a matter of minutes! But what design should you use to build the best plane? In this aerodynamics science project, you will change the basic design of a paper plane and see how this affects its flight. Specifically, you will increase how much drag the plane experiences and see if this changes how far the paper plane flies. There is a lot of cool…
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Very Short (≤ 1 day)
Very Low (under $20)
Fly your planes in a large area, away from foot and vehicle traffic.
You have probably made plenty of regular paper airplanes simply by folding a piece of printer or notebook paper. Have you ever tried making a "high performance" paper glider? These gliders use a different construction technique that involves cutting multiple shapes out of thicker, stiffer paper and gluing them together (this process is called lamination). There are many resources online that can get you started with the art of making high performance paper gliders. See the references in the…
Naval fighter pilots seem to defy physics each time they fly their jets off of an aircraft carrier. Normal runways are thousands of feet long so that airplanes can develop enough lift to fly. But a runway on an aircraft is much shorter. How can naval pilots get their fighter jets into the air without falling off the carrier into the ocean? Well, because they get a boost from a catapult! Sounds unbelievable? It's not, and you can find out more about catapult-assisted takeoff in this aerodynamics…
Have you ever flown in an airplane, or looked up at one flying in the sky, and wondered how such a massive machine can stay in the air? Airplanes can stay in the air because their wings, also referred to as airfoils, generate lift. Engineers use devices called wind tunnels to experiment and test different wing shapes when they design new airplanes. Wind tunnels let engineers make careful measurements of the air flow around the wing, and measure the amount of lift it generates.
If you can get…
Have you ever seen butterflies fluttering around outside, gliding through the air and landing on flowers? While they are delicate and fragile, butterflies are actually excellent flyers. They are so good, in fact, that scientists at Harvard University studied butterfly wing shapes as an inspiration for building a miniature flying robot. In this science project, you will do your own version of the Harvard scientists' experiment to measure the flight performance of butterfly wings.
The Wright brothers used kites extensively to test their design ideas in the years leading up to their first successful airplane flight. With this science project, you'll learn about kite aerodynamics, and then come up with your own hypothesis about building or flying a kite. You can test your hypothesis two ways: with an online kite simulation program from NASA, and outdoors with the real thing! A great feature of this science project is that it has many possible variations, so you can decide…
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