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Right Flying

online collaborative project
(grades 3-8)

Second Session began February 15, 1999
Revised Timeline Updated March 1, 1999

I. Introduction to Online Collaborative Project
Given an inherently faulty airplane (glider) design, participating classes will use problem-solving skills to create a plan revision for a glider which produces the longest stable flight. The plan must present the scientific basis for the revised plan.

Click here to see preliminary glider test results!

Click here to see BEST REDESIGN PLANS.

II. Definition of Sharing NASA Online Collaborative Projects
Online Collaborative Projects engage students in exploring in-depth scientific and engineering principles relating to a particular Sharing NASA project.  Classes from across the nation and beyond exchange information, ideas, and interact with one another via electronic mail, the web, and special web events such as live chats.

Characteristics of Online Collaborative Projects:

   1. Engage students and educators in exploring the science and engineering concepts relevant to the Sharing NASA online interactive project.
   2. Promote in-depth study of scientific and engineering problems and challenges through collaborative problem solving.
   3. Collaborative projects enhance communication and higher level thinking skills though consensus reaching between participating classes.
   4.  Interaction among participating classes is facilitated by electronic mail lists and the web. Participation is open to all interested classes within the appropriate grade level range.
   5. Online mentoring and participation by NASA experts, experienced educators, and special guests furthers the understanding of scientific and engineering concepts.
   6. Duration of online collaborative is approximately six weeks.
   7. Collaborative projects result in a culminating activity in which students share project end products online.

III. Logistics of the Discussion Forum
Participating classes share information via an electronic mail list called debate-aero.  Each sponsoring educator must subscribe to the debate-aero mail list. The discussion forum has been active since February 1, 1999 enabling educators to post questions, exchange ideas, share resources prior to the student start date. Students got active in this round on February 15 and the activity is scheduled to last through April 9, 1999.
To join the debate-aero list:

   1. Send a message to:  listmanager@quest.arc.nasa.gov
   2. Leave the subject blank.
   3. In the message body, write:  subscribe debate-aero
   4. You should receive a confirmation e-mail message which has more information about the list, how to send messages, and other  list information.

Please review the archive of messages posted since January 30, 1999 though present. You can sort the messages by DATE, SUBJECT, and AUTHOR. It is especially important that you read through the introductions and messages from project leaders, Jan Wee and Richard Yanni.

IV. Learning Objectives

   1. Identify the forces that act upon airplanes and understand the effects of these forces on aeronautical design.
   2. To identify each part of an airplane and its function in flight.
   3. To understand and explain the importance of air and airflow as they relate to the wings of an airplane.
   4. To understand the importance of airfoil shape, wing shape and wing size to subsonic flight and demonstrate the application of these principles to produce an aeronautically sound airplane.
   5. To identify an airplane's center of gravity and its relationship to an airplane's flight capabilities.
   6. To identify the motions of an airplane (yaw, pitch and roll).
   7. To identify design factors that impacts the motions of an airplane.
   8. To demonstrate the importance of testing design models before actually building a prototype.
   9. To appreciate the Wright Brothers' contributions to the science of aeronautics.
  10. Use problem solving, research skills, and team collaboration to identify design flaws in existing glider plan.
  11. Promote teamwork through problem solving.
  12. Demonstrate the ability to defend and support scientific understanding of aeronautics via online forum communications.
  13. Improve communication and debate skills.
  14. Demonstrate the ability to analyze and troubleshoot design flaws using the scientific method.

V. Collaborative Project Schedule/Timeline

Week 1: February 15-23, 1999

Weeks 2,3,4: February 22 - March 12, 1999

  • Finish building Level I Glider or Level II Glider based on templates.
  • Discuss how to standardize flight tests. Student Handouts: Our Class' Standard Test Flight Procedure
  • Perform flight test of the gliders based upon the standardized procedures. Observe and record how the glider performs (flies).
  • Share glider test results
  • Discuss Wright Brothers approach to problem solving
Click here to see glider test results!

Week 5: March 15 - 19, 1999

  • Have students brainstorm as a class and enumerate the problem solving process that will be used. Use Student Handout #3 Our Class's Problem Solving Process.
  • Students select glider design component to change. Use the Student Handout Research Information Guide to assist students in focusing in on specific design flaws and needed research to solve the problem.
  • Explore the principles of flight via research and discussion in class.
  • Students collect data, problem solve design flaws, and suggest possible glider plan revisions.
  • Through class discussion and debate determine the best glider revision plan and submit online. Complete the electronic form: Our Class's Design Modification. One submission per class.

Week 6 & 7: March 22 - April 2, 1999

  • Students build gliders based on revised plans
  • Students test gliders using standardized flight test and ask questions, share results, exchange ideas.
  • Students reach consensus on the BEST glider plan revision.

Click here to see BEST REDESIGN PLANS.

Week 8: April 5 - 9, 1999

  • Online experts assist in process of evaluating glider plan revisions and interpreting test flight data.
  • Culmination of project classes may choose to build and test fly BEST glider plans and share results online
  • Students submit project summary report (may be a multimedia Hyperstudio/ PowerPoint slide show or word processed group project.)
  • Closure-Review and class farewell exchanges.

VI. Materials List

VII. Procedure

WEEK ONE: February 15 - 21, 1999

   1. Review with students information about the Wright Brothers and some of their aeronautical work through various resources listed at this site.
   2. Review the student handout that discusses the airplane design problem to be solved.
   3. Give students the applicable airplane design template (Level I or Level II) and the necessary materials. Have them construct their models and test them for aeronautical features.

ONLINE during Week One

  • Class introductions
  • Moderator of forum leads discussion on Wright Brothers
  • Experienced educator shares input on glider building

WEEKS TWO, THREE, FOUR: February 22 - March 12,1999

   1. Allow them time to "play" with or fly the models. Students should be thinking about how to standardize test flight procedure.
   2. Review the parameters of the problem. Have a group discussion on how to go about solving the problem.
   3. Relate this to the Wright Brothers approach to solving the aeronautical problems

ONLINE during Weeks Two, Three and Four

  • Discuss glider building - challenges, insights, etc.
  • Guest Aeronautical Engineer offers insight on flight
  • Classes share ideas on standardizing flight test
  • Identifying design flaws and how to resolve the design problem
  • Glider test results shared online
  • Discuss Wright Brothers approach to problem solving

WEEK FIVE: March 15-19, 1999


Given specific parameters of what can and cannot be changed, students will re-design the faulty modelbased on one of the following aspects of the glider: See Teacher Tips for Level I and Level II - Aeronautical Explanations.

  • wing span and shape
  • center of gravity
  • tail section
  • fuselage length and shape

   2. Once the class has established a method or process for solving the design problem, review the Student Guidesheet with them. Emphasize that each student pair must document their problem solving process and keep a record of their observations, modifications, observations and possible solutions.
   3. Allow time for them to learn about the principles of flight and then use that knowledge to experiment on their airplane design.
   4. Set periodic time limits in order to facilitate the gathering of design information that will be compiled and used during the online collaboration periods.
   5. Teacher leads in-class debate on best glider revision plans.
   6. Each class submits their best revised Level 1 Glider plan and/or Level 2 Glider Plan using the template at: http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/events/collaborative/submit.html These plans will be placed online and will be accessible via the web. Scientific justification for design modification must be included in the description.

ONLINE during Week Five

  • Come to consensus online on how to standardize test flight. 
  • Report on glider tests: what students have learned, what worked, and what did not work.
  • Classes share their redesign concerns, problems, questions and share suggestions and ideas.
  • Classes submit their best glider revision plan with explanation and scientific basis for revision.
  • Guest aeronautical engineer shares insights on flight tests.

WEEK SIX: March 22- 26

   1. Wright Flyer staff groups students based on the type of changes made in their glider design. (wing, tail, CG)
   2. Classes within each group test each other's glider designs and report back their results, asking questions and explaining their observations.
   3. Classes discuss results: Are students able to re-confirm the data of the class submitting the design? Report back to online forum.

ONLINE during Week Six

  • Aeronautics experts help interpret plans submitted looking for common features in order to group plans.
  • Experts give input on plan revisions. 
  • Experienced educator shares input regarding evaluating best glider redesign plans.
  • Students participate online by sharing the test results of each other's designs, what worked, what did not. Ask questions of each other regarding glider plans.

WEEK SEVEN: March 29 - APRIL 2, 1999
   1. Through online discussion classes, exchange the pros and cons of the various glider plans.

Reach consensus on the best glider plan revision for each category:

  • wing span and shape
  • center of gravity
  • tail section
  • fuselage length and shape

   3. Top design in each category is announced and shared online with special recognition to all participating classes.

ONLINE during Week Seven

  • See Above #1-3
Click here to see BEST REDESIGN PLANS.

WEEK EIGHT: April 5 - April 9, 1999  

   1. Top design in each category is announced and shared online with special recognition to all participating classes. 
   2. Culmination of project classes may chose to build and test fly BEST glider plans and share results online.
   3. Students submit project summary report (may be a multimedia Hyperstudio/ PowerPoint slide show or word processed group project.)
   4.  Closure: Review and class farewell exchanges.

ONLINE during Week Eight

  • Share summary projects, share description of class summary projects.
  • Exchange farewell messages highlighting what they have gained.

VIII. Diagrams and Student Handouts

   1. Glider Construction Instructions (Level I and Level II)
   2. The Design Problem
   3. Student Guidesheet: Our Class's Problem Solving Process
   4. Research Information Guide
   5. Our Class' Standard Flight Procedure
   6. Our Class's Design Modification Submission Form

IX. Quick Check (Checklist)


Review calendar and procedures, all readings, resource list, diagrams and student handouts.

   2. Run off multiple copies of student forms: The Design Problem, Solving the Design Problem.
    3 Gather all materials.

X. Helpful Hints

  1. My tips for building gliders, by Steve Smith

XI. Evaluation / Assessment (to be filled in soon)

XII. Resource Section (print publications, chats, etc.coming soon)

   1. Web links
   2. Books and Audio Visuals for Teachers and Students
   3. Plane Spotting Game
   4. Model Glider Design Project at the University of North Dakota
  5. A Virtual Tour Of the United States Air Force Academy Aeronautics Laboaratory


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