Science Fair Experiments

Paper Airplane Flight


The objective: We wanted to determine which class of paper airplanes, Darts, or Gliders, performs better. We predicted that darts would fly farther, because their streamlined design is more adept to fly propelled by thrust. We thought that gliders would remain aloft longer, because their wings provide more lift, the force of flight that causes airplanes to rise. We defined longer and farther flights as the best performance.


The methods and procedures we used were as follows:

# We constructed a lift scale out of KNex that measured lift based on angle of attack.

# We built 7 wings out of different materials like paper, Styrofoam, and balsawood.

# We attached a KNex rod to each of them so we could attach them vertically to the lift scale.

# We tested all the wings by attaching each of them vertically to the measurement scale and using a fan to blow air on them. We set the angle of attack and observed the lift that was generated by each wing.

# We recorded the wings lift in 3 separate trials for each angle of attack.

# We averaged the three trials.

# We then increased the angle of attack by 10 degrees and repeated the experiment until we reached 60 degrees.

# We did this procedure for each wing.

Then we compared the lift results for each wing at each angle of attack.


Our results showed that we were partly correct; darts did travel farther. Yet as it turned out, gliders did not remain aloft as long as darts. The dart's average distance was 7.5 feet longer than the glider's and the glider's average flight duration was .04 seconds shorter than the gliders.


We believe the planes flew the way they flew because of the launcher we used to propel the planes into flight. The rubber band used in the launcher provided a "raw" and uncontrolled thrust the gliders could not handle. The Darts could fly with more thrust because their streamlined design eliminates drag, yet the wide winged/nosed gliders were not able to fly because of all the drag created by their wings. If we conduct further testing, we will test the flight of paper airplanes thrown versus being launched, to determine which source of power is a better way of launching paper airplanes.

This project tested the performance of two classes of paper airplanes, darts and gliders, to see which class functions better; has longer flight distance and flight duration.

Science Fair Project done By Justin Clausen



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