Monday, May 26, 2014

STEM Project: Glider

The school year is flying by in gliders! This week, students must construct a glider that will fly a total distance of 7 meters. By constructing gliders, I wanted students not just to use their imagination and creativity and  practice the engineering process, but I also wanted them to learn a few scientific concepts along the way. The scientific concepts are below:
1. Students will understand and apply Bernoulli's principle.
2. Students will understand and apply Newton's second and third law of motion.
3. Students will understand and apply thrust, drag, lift, and gravity.

Before touching any material used to construct a glider, students had to research a few things. I wanted them to understand Bernoulli's principle because it wasn't a concept that students were going to just "come to". Therefore, I did a mini-lesson about Bernoulli's principle. Here's a great video to help explain Bernoulli's law and how it relates to Newton's third law of motion.

After the mini-lesson, students went to the computer lab, and researched glider designs. All of my students have a school google account. Therefore, they used the drawing feature on google drive to create a plan with their partner for three possible glider designs. Here's a couple screenshots of their planned gliders.

Now begins the fun! Students have a limited budget and they can buy materials for a cost. For example, a cereal box cost them $4.00. A sheet of newspaper will cost then $1.00. I always always try to find very inexpensive or no-cost items. Students spend an 1-2 entire days constructing, testing, redesigning, and retesting their glider. I am lucky to have a classroom that is 8.5 meters long. So, I just mark off 7 meters as the "test zone" in my classroom.

During presentation students talk about what their original design was, how it changed, why they changed it, what their largest challenges were, and their biggest successes were. They then have three attempts to fly their glider past the 7 meters zone. This week, it was nice, sunny, and windy. So, we presented and tested them outside.

We didn't do this step this week, but if you had more time, I think that it is of great value. Students pick one variable they want to change on or about their glider (wing material, wing shape, wing length, body shape, initial flying height, etc). If their variable was initial flying height, they then might test the variable at three different heights (1 meter, 1.5 meters, 2 meters). They will record how far their glider flies at all different heights in a data table and calculate the probability to determine the most successful change. They will do this for three variables of their choice.

This step is critical for students to learn to put the academic vocabulary with the project concepts. Students will complete a few questions about the glider project with their partner that they worked with.

I hope that this tutorial helps if you are planning a project about Bernoulli's principle/ Newton's 3rd Law of Motion.

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