Monday, October 27, 2014

How Do Things Fly? - A Fun and Interactive STEM Activity

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum has a bunch of great online exhibits for children and adults. A couple of years ago I featured the America by Air online exhibit. American by Air is a series of thirteen online activities that take students through the history of commercial aviation in the United States. After learning about the history of aviation let your students try their hands at designing their own airplanes on the How Things Fly exhibit.

How Things Fly features an interactive module in which students design their own airplanes. The activity starts with a simple and slow airplane that students have to modify until it reaches a target speed and altitude. As students modify the wings, fuselage, and engines of their airplanes they are given instant feedback on the effects of those modifications. In some cases the feedback includes the airplane crashing and the students having to start over again.

Applications for Education
Working through How Things Fly could be part of a fun STEM lesson for elementary school and middle school students. The feedback that students receive on their airplane design modifications includes information on thrust, drag, lift, and weight.