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Paper Helicopters

Twirling and turning takeoff!

In this activity, students will explore how gravity and air resistance work together to create a graceful, twirling miniature helicopter.

As you let go of the helicopter, gravity pulls it toward the ground. Air resistance pushes up on the helicopter as it falls. The air pushing on the wings of the helicopter makes it spin.

This is a recommended post-visit activity for a field trip to Science World.

Objectives

  • Describe how force can be applied to move an object.

Materials

Key Questions

  • Why does the helicopter spin?
  • Why does the helicopter drop slowly?

What To Do

Preparation:

  1. Create a sample so that students can see what the finished helicopter will look like.

Instructions:

  1. Cut around the outside of the helicopter.
  2. Cut along the solid lines.
  3. Fold the side pieces in to form the body of the helicopter.
  4. Fold one wing toward you and one wing away from you  to form the rotor.
  5. Fold the helicopter body up about 1 cm from the end. Use the paper clip to hold this fold.
  6. Drop the helicopter from a high place and watch it spin.

Extensions

  • What would happen if you changed a variable (different type of paper, more/less paperclips, different sized wings etc.)?
  • How can you measure the difference your changes may make?

Other Resources

Science World | Paper Helicopter Template

Science World | On The Road | Why do Helicopters Spin?