Robotic paper airplane launchers
- Students will learn about gear ratios by building robotic paper airplane launchers
- Students will learn about the engineering design process
- LEGO MINDSTORMS Edu EV3/NXT kits
- Laptops with LEGO MINDSTORMS Edu EV3/NXT Software
Don’t have LEGO Robotics sets? Other ways to build paper airplane launchers include:
Let's Get Started!
- Present students with the challenge of building a robot that can launch a paper airplane as far as possible. Brainstorm ideas about what type of robot could achieve this goal. Some cool topics to discuss are the launch angle, launch speed, and aerodynamics.
- Start building! Most students will build a robot that just uses the motors to spin wheels to launch the airplane. However, the motors don’t spin fast enough to get any substantial flight. This video shows one group’s first iteration: https://youtu.be/ngVMOCDfxRk
- Explore gear ratios. How can we make the wheels on the robot spin fast enough to actually launch the airplane? Check out this video explaining gear ratios.
- Iterate! Allow students to try, test, fail and retry. Add new gear combinations as they try to achieve maximum launch distance.
- Compete! See who’s bot can launch the paper airplane the furthest?
If students finish early and are waiting for the competition to begin, challenge them to fold a few different types of paper airplanes and explore the impact that has on the launch distance. A good paper airplane instruction website can be found here.