How Does Wingspan Affect Flight Distance?

By Laura Hospitál on Jul 07, 2015

This science project was done by Darren, who is a student at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI).

Darren became interested in aviation and airplanes while attending Space Camp for Interested Visually Impaired in the fall of 2014. He attended the Aviation Challenge camp and was fascinated by all he learned about planes.  He so enjoyed the camp that he based his science project on planes and plans to attend SCIVIS again this year. (http://www.scivis.org/)

The Best Paper Plane To Fly

When you are doing your project you must come up with what you are changing.  In our experiment the wingspan will be the independent variable.  The dependent variable is the distance the plane flies.

Preparation:

Darren researched his question and contacted an aviation expert he knew from Space Camp.  This was his e-mail to her:

"Hello this is Darren. I am doing a science project to determine how paper-plane wing span affects flight distance. Jim Alan suggested I consult with you as an aerodynamics expert.
Our plan is to design paper aeroplanes with variable wing span and launch it from a paper aeroplane launcher. We will Measure the distance of flight and identify the optimal wingspan.
Do you think the wingspan can affect the plane's flight, and if so how?"

This was her response:

"Yes, wingspan will affect flight, however there will be a point where the size of the wingspan will create too much weight and drag to be effective.  For a glider, which a paper airplane is the more lift the glider has the longer it can fly. However, you must keep the weight and drag in check to avoid flight failure."

 

Materials

  • paper for airplanes
  • braille ruler
  • glue stick
  • trundle wheel

Procedure

Question  

Step 1.  Make sure you know what you are going to change.

I will be changing the wing size. This is the independent variable.

Hypothesis

Step 2.  Hypothesis: What is your thought of which plane is going to fly farther?

I think that the plane with the same wingspan and body length will fly farthest.  This is probably a wingspan that will be the best to fly the plane. 

Procedure:  

Step 3.  Get the things you will need for this project like:

  1. Paper to build the planes
  2. A ruler to measure the wingspan and body length of the planes
  3. Something to fly the plane. I considered using an airplane launcher, but this didn't work well. I chose to launch the planes myself, but in order to decrease error, I launched each airplane ten times and averaged the distances.
  4. Use something to measure the distance the plane flies such as a trundle wheel or measuring tape.  I will use a trundle wheel.

Experiment:

Step 4.  Fly the planes. Two of each plane will be built and each plane will be flown 10 times so that the results will be more accurate. 

Results/Conclusion:

Step 5 Write all of the measurements and see if your hypothesis is right.

The picture is of Darren's planes and a graph he made of his results on an APH graphboard.

Data: 

Body Length/ Wingspan                                           Average flight distance

8.5 cm/   2.5 cm      Ratio - 3.4                                              9.225 m

7 cm /  4 cm            Ratio - 1.75                                            9.25 m

5.5 cm/ 5.5 cm        Ratio   - 1                                                 9.5 m

4 cm / 7 cm             Ration - .57                                            7.65 m

2.5 cm / 8. 5cm       Ratio - .29                                               6.875 m

 

 

NGSS Standards:

Plan and conduct an investigation individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, and in the design: decide on types, how much, and accuracy of data needed to produce reliable measurements and consider limitations on the precision of the data (e.g., number of trials, cost, risk, time), and refine the design accordingly. (HS-ESS2-5)

 

Collage of wingspan experiment


 

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