Four Forces of Flight

EAADo you know the four forces of flight (lift, drag, weight, and thrust) and how they relate to each other? In these activities you will learn how each component of flight interacts on the ground and in the air.


Tumblewing Gliders
For Grades 6-12

Students will build a wing that flies on a shelf of air provided by their walking action to illustrate one of many ways lift and thrust can be provided to an airfoil. This lesson also gives background to Bernoulli's Principle and shows how changes in design can affect performance.

Tumblewing Gliders Activity Teacher Grades 6-12
Tumblewing Gliders Activity Student Grades 6-12

Whirling Dervishes
For Grades 9-12

By constructing a helicopter-inspired device and testing it to minimize the effects of torque, this lesson focuses on the concept of "torque" which is the twisting motion that affects propeller-driven airplanes and helicopters. This lesson also covers Newton's Third Law, as the students should realize through the activity that every action has an equal and opposite reaction through the movement of the helicopter responding to the rubber band rotations.

Whirling Dervishes Activity Teacher Grades 9-12
Whirling Dervishes Activity Student Grades 9-12

Flying Cups
For Grades 6-12

Students follow simple directions to build a glider out of plastic cups and tape. This low-tech activity help students understand the effects of torque, Newton's Third Law, the Magnus Effect, and Bernoulli's Principle. This activity is easily modified to focus on any of the above topics.

Flying Cups Activity Teacher Grades 6-12
Flying Cups Activity Student Grades 6-12

Fizzy Rockets
For Grades 6-8 & 9-12

By designing and testing their own rocket fueled by a chemical change, students will understand the difference between a physical and chemical change, explore Newton's Third Law (for every action (force) there is an equal and opposite reaction), and follow the scientific method by changing a variable to test a hypothesis. This activity also touches on three of the four forces of flight (thrust, drag, and gravity) and how changes in design can affect performance.

In an optional extension activity, students will further explore the historical changes in engineering of rockets and communicate their ideas for future design improvements.

Fizzy Rockets Activity Teacher Grades 6-8
Fizzy Rockets Activity Student Grades 6-8

Fizzy Rockets Activity Teacher Grades 9-12
Fizzy Rockets Activity Student Grades 9-12

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