Creative Design and Flight
This project challenges students to investigate the design process by creating a working glider out of a limited set of materials. The process will be documented with a daily photo blog along with final design instructions. Successful projects will fly, without stalling (fly straight) across the room. Flight is a great first design challenge since the measure of success is very clear, 3D printing parts teaches students about clearance, fit and the revision process.
This project would be appropriate for students in upper middle school and high school students. (ages 13 – 18)
This project was originally created by
Cam Watt (firstname.lastname@example.org) and is covered under a Creative Commons license.
Steps to Completion
- As this project is designed for high school students, they are given more freedom and control of the creative process. They are given this challenge:
“Using one square of cardboard, modeling clay, and one 3D printed part that you design, build a working glider. Your final glider design must fly straight without stalling. Keep a photo blog with comments to update your personal creative design process and document your final working design on this online space so someone else could reproduce your work.
- Work Periods: I gave students 10 classes to develop their prototypes, create a 3D printed design
- Documenting progress through blogging. Most students are comfortable doing this already using their phones or my classroom point and shoot camera. Demo a website they can post images and text and the workflow to do so.
- Share: I linked all of my class photo blogs to my own site so everyone could share in the process of each group. We also did a test flight day to try out our designs.
This finished project has multiple places for assessment to take place:
Knowledge: Use of materials as demonstrated in class to produce a working model. Finished design must use 3 different cardboard connection techniques.
Thinking: Photo blog demonstrates design process with daily updates that clearly illustrate process.
Communication: Clear documentation of final design so someone else could reproduce your design.
Application: Final 3D model documentation in Sketchup is clear and accurate.
After this process, students should reflect on their process, their progress and their success (or lack of it!). They can perform a gallery walk looking at the work that other students have done. If they have written blog posts during this process they can leave comments for others as part of their reflection.
- How did your plane utilize the basic principles of flight?
- How have you used pieces of designs of other airplanes in your own work?
- If you were to complete this project again, what would you change? What would you be sure to do exactly the same?
Downloads and More Information
- Printable classroom lesson plan available as a .docx file or as a .pdf file
- Short video of a test flight
- Discover Design – information on helping students to learn the design process
- Challenge Based Learning Resources from Apple
- The History of Human Powered flight interactive timeline
- How Things Fly – an interactive site from the Smithsonian