Reflection: Student Ownership Balsa Wood Airplane Challenge #1 - Section 3: Student Activity


One of the secrets as to why these airplanes fly is that they are exceptionally light. This causes the airplanes to be exceedingly delicate. Delicate airplanes, even when cared for properly, break. I train my students to treat these airplanes as if they were eggs. Even with proper care these airplanes break. I have used heavier-duty planes, but I've found they don't perform as well and cost more.

I typically see the tail fins break first. Unfortunately a broken tail renders these planes grounded. Small repairs can often resurrect a plane, but often this leads to a crash. We go into the gym to do the actual flight and I don't feel comfortable letting a small group into my classroom, unsupervised, to build another plane. Often that group has to make do with what they have until the next day.

To get four flights out of a group I plan on having two planes per group on average. With a class of thirty-five student I break them into ten groups, so I need ten planes to start and ten planes as back-up for a grand total of twenty planes for a class of thirty-five.

  Be prepared for a lot of broken airplanes
  Student Ownership: Be prepared for a lot of broken airplanes
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Balsa Wood Airplane Challenge #1

Unit 12: Engineering and Design
Lesson 9 of 11

Objective: Students will be able to calculate the speed of a balsa wood airplane as it flies around a flight tower.

Big Idea: Using a balsa wood airplane students are able to time the plane's flight and determine the distance traveled in order to calculate the plane's speed.

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  155 minutes
balsa wood airplane
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