Paper Airplane Flight Challenge

Students in Biology 9 practice the work of a life scientist, using observation, experimentation, modeling, and technology to explore how life works. During inquiry-based learning activities and laboratory investigations they engage in myriad opportunities to apply core ideas  and develop solutions to authentic problem-based scenarios.

For their first lab of the trimester, students built paper airplanes and conducted a series of test flights to determine the optimal design to maximize flight distance. Working in groups of three, each student was asked to research and create their own individual paper airplane design.

During the test flights, students maintained all aspects of their designs except for one variable of their choice (e.g., weight, wing length, plane length, or wing diameter). They performed three throws per airplane and collected quantitative and qualitative data. After analyzing patterns and trends in their research, each student created a final lab report.  

Faculty member Neal Zoellick likes to include this lab at the start of the year to introduce students to the processes of science—creating a hypothesis, designing around a testable variable, and recording results.  

“The lab was developed to serve as a platform for establishing lab expectations in my class, that include: following directions, using a rubric to create measurable goals, and striving for consistent data,” said Mr. Zoellick. “I think the students had a great time designing their respective aircrafts and some of the results were certainly unexpected, which made for some comedic moments during the airplanes' flights!”

Students pose with paper airplanes they designed in a biology class lab
Students work on their paper airplane designs in biology class

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