In this science experiment we will explore the Bernoulli principle that explains how airplanes fly. So lets get to it
and Make Bernoulli's Paper Airplane Experiment.
Materials: Paper (copier or computer printer paper works best), some 1/2" or 3/4" cellophane tape, and a paper
clip. (make a copy of the "Bernoulli Plane" template so you can make several and experiment with different ways
of making it fly)
Process Bernoulli's Paper Airplane Experiment
Build a special paper airplane to demonstrate how and why airplanes and most birds can fly (when they're not
flapping their wings).
Cut Out Plane Template At Bottom of Page.
Cut out the airplane's shape along the dark solid line. Next, fold the top half at the dotted line so that it meets the
bottom half. Don't, however, fully crease the paper at the fold (we want to make a nice 'tear drop' air foil shape).
After folding the paper back, put a small piece of tape at the wing tips and at the center at the points marked A, B,
and C. Now fold the plane along the center crease so that it creates a flattened out 'V'. The angle of the 'V' should
be no more than about 15 degrees.
Test fly the plane and adjust its stability. Keep the nose of the plane from rising (stalling) by adding a small
weight to the nose (point D), a paper clip or two does nicely. You can also adjust how much the plane dives or
climbs by cutting small slots in the tail of the plane and bending the paper at the cuts up or down. Experiment
with putting them up or down and seeing what effect that has on the way the plane flies. People who know about
airplanes call these little 'tabs' an elevator if it makes the plane go up or down and a rudder if it makes the plane
turn right or left.
The Science Behind Bernoulli's Paper Airplane Experiment
Contrary to popular belief, airplanes don't float on the air, they're sucked up into it. This reason is known as
Bernoulli's Principle. It says: "...as air travels faster [than surrounding air] across a surface, the air pressure
against it is reduced..."
By curving the top of an airplane's wing, air above it has to travel farther (as the distance is greater) than the air
below, forcing the air to move faster. The result is lower pressure on top and more pressure on the bottom.
Another name for this is lift. The higher air pressure below the wing is just like someone pushing from below
the wing; the lower pressure above the wing is like someone pulling it up (like sucking on a straw to draw up
milk in a glass). If a wing has enough lift upwards, it moves upward, if a wing has lift downwards, it moves
Even though most paper airplanes have 'flat' wings, they still cause the air to move the same way. The plane that
we built, the "Bernoulli Plane" has a real airfoil and more closely resembles and flies the way that real planes
and most birds do.
Watch the video below to see how the Bernoulli effect creates lift for airplanes.
Things to Remember
Bernoulli's Principle is a relation discovered by the 18th-century Swiss scientist and mathematician Daniel
Bernoulli. He discovered that the faster a fluid (such as air) moves, the lower is the pressure that it exerts.
So grab some friends and make Bernoulli's Paper Airplane Experiment.
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