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How Do Engineers Solve Problems?

1 review


Grade Range
Group Size
4 students
Active Time
2 hours and 15 minutes
Total Time
2 hours and 15 minutes
Area of Science
Aerodynamics & Hydrodynamics
Key Concepts
Engineering design process, engineering criteria, engineering constraints, drag, lift, thrust
Sabine De Brabandere, PhD, Science Buddies
Video narration by Jennifer E Paz
Free for a limited time thanks to individual donors


In this fun video lesson, students will pretend to be engineers at an engineering company that constructs paper airplanes. They will identify the criteria for success from provided readings and define the constraints on their solutions. Using the engineering design process they will prototype, test, and deliver their best paper airplanes.

Learning Objectives


For the class:

Per group:

Per student:

Prep Work

Students should have Pages 1-2 of the worksheet at the start of the lesson. Pages 3-9 can be handed out before they start the explore section.

Prepare the test site before the students are ready to test their planes (time stamp 55:25 in the explore video). Use tape or chalk to tape or draw the throw line and the target area on the floor.

test layout for throwing airplanes

Students might like to throw the airplanes a few times as practice, before throwing them to test the performance of the airplanes.

The explore section of the video does not need to be done in one session. If needed, you can easily halt the lesson at the following points:

  • Before or after doing background research (at 9:38 or 16:20 in the explore video). Reading the background research paper can be assigned as homework. The students should, however, be given time to discuss the background reading in their groups.
  • Between producing the prototypes and testing (at 55:25).
  • Just after testing, before evaluating the test data (57:20).

Prep Work ()

Engage (22 minutes)

Explore (1 hour 45 minutes)

Reflect (5 minutes)



Free science fair projects.