1 Science: Airplanes

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de Gusmão was a Portuguese priest  from the Colony of Brazil, noted for his early work on lighter-than-air airship design. His design  had a huge sail over a bird-like body and it produced airflow with billows.

Supplies from the EHA Bag:

  • Cardboard
  • Paper
  • Tape
  • Straws

Supplies from the EHA Science Box:

  • Glue
  • Scissors


EHA Activity Book Definitions:

Airfoil:  any surface, as a wing, aileron, or stabilizer, designed to aid in lifting or controlling an aircraft by making use of the air currents through which it moves.

Center of Gravity: The center of gravity  of an aircraft is the point over which the aircraft would balance.

Center of Pressure:  Average location of the pressure.


Determining the center of pressure is very important for any flying object. To trim an airplane, or to provide stability for a model rocket or a kite, it is necessary to know the location of the center of pressure of the entire aircraft. How do engineers determine the location of the center of pressure for an aircraft which they are designing?

In general, determining the center of pressure (cp) is a very complicated procedure because the pressure changes around the object. Determining the center of pressure requires the use of calculus and a knowledge of the pressure distribution around the body. We can characterize the pressure variation around the surface as a function p(x) which indicates that the pressure depends on the distance x from a reference line usually taken as the leading edge of the object. If we can determine the form of the function, there are methods to perform a calculus integration of the equation. We will use the symbols “S[ ]dx” to denote the integration of a continuous function. Then the center of pressure can be determined from:

cp = (S[x * p(x)]dx) / (S[p(x)]dx)

Fin:  vertical stabilizers, vertical stabilizers, or fins, of aircraft, missiles, or bombs

Fins are typically found on the aft end of the fuselage or body, and are intended to reduce aerodynamic side slip and provide direction stability. It is analogous to a skeg on boats and ships.

Lift:  is a mechanical force generated by a solid object moving through a fluid


Wind Sheer:  Wind shear refers to a change in wind speed or direction with height in the atmosphere.



  • Discuss the definitions of airplane parts and ask the students to write short descriptions in their EHA Activity Book
  • Ask students to draw a picture of their airplane.


  • Before creating their work, ask students to explain their thoughts to you or to another classmate using their new terms.
  • Keep the instructions open ended.
  • For students who are truly struggling or those who complete their planes early, suggest a spiraling airplane.
  • Cut one strip from the longer side of a piece of paper and one from the shorter side.
  • Tape them into rings.



  • Add a straw.


  • Throw it!  It spirals!


  • IMG_6793

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