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Twitter user ChristineMMTTM points us to this video record of the process of building a remote control airplane from junk that could be scavenged from most household trash. Projects like this are a great way to learn problem solving, and important concepts of aerodynamics. Could this be done with a full-size class of regular education students?

Chris Connors

Making things is the best way to learn about our world.


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Comments

  1. Sam Bleckley says:

    It’s awesome that they build the plane itself from trash, but given that the controller, the reciever, and the servos are the expensive and complex parts, it seems a bit disingenuous to call it “from trash” when they are standard RC plane parts.

    Have a class make walkalong gliders; learn plenty about aerodynamics and no expensive parts are needed.

  2. Rick says:

    Great idea, Having tried to make Air craft, gliders, rubber kits and walk along gliders with the kids at school, it actually doesn’t work very well.

    A class full lack the patience and hobby skills to be successful and you (the teacher) end up doing most of the construction.

    Even where you supply kits their construction skills and motivation (believe it or not) are very low.

    Kites worked best and I started a RC club with a restricted membership and when they discovered it wasn’t like a video games where a crash just meant pressing restart quite a lot dropped out. The remaining 3 or 4 had a great time a the school provided the RC equipment and the ARTF aircraft for them.

  3. Rick says:

    A better solution for our school was to build a wind tunnel and use that to look at aerodynamics – this then lead to measuring things and developing instrumentation to do that.

    Not all modern kids are transfixed by something that flies, and a LOT give up on anything that looks even slightly hard or complicated.

    YMMV

  4. john personna says:

    I’d guess that with very high power to weight ratio it isn’t so much about lift as stability(?)

  5. Gary says:

    I have to agree with Rick about how kids will walk away from even the coolest projects when it looks a bit hard. I teach after school programs with kits that I make, and even when they’re simplified to the point where my 5 year old can assemble them unaided, out of a group of 12 kids 8-10 years of age, there will often be 4 or 5 who readily throw their arms up in defeat and want to leave. I can usually persuade them to stay and finish, but it’s disheartening nonetheless. I’m sincerely hoping that this great d.i.y. movement has a strong ripple effect on the younger kids throughout their learning experiences.

    1. Chris Connors says:

      Great points!
      So when students are faced with a great challenge, how can we help them break it down into realistic and achievable pieces? As students and youth get into making, it can be important that they learn new concepts that are wrapped up in the object that they get to keep.

      In video games, they can keep running through the same situation over and over again until they get the technique down. I guess the closest parallel would be the design process, or the iterative process in which you keep designing and testing refinements until you get it right. With physical media like the airplane project above, you can gather quite a collection of evidence of your learning process.

      It would be great to hear how you and others are struggling and succeeding at helping youth and adults master these important skills. What works, and what do you steer clear of? What do you see as the great differences between making in a classroom environment vs. a workshop or drop-in community center?

  6. Sean says:

    With enough power you can fly a barn door. Well, CG and control surfaces count as well.

    This is basically a flat star kite with two of the tips hinged. He finally had to add the streamer tail on to get yaw/pitch stability. That’s pretty common on flat kites, to add streamers or a drogue system, the drag pulls the nose forward into the effective wind.

    I like how he used the old Beechcraft Ruddervator (used on a lot of sail planes) design as a combined elevator/aileron control.