Friday, June 20, 2008

Physics Experiments: Paper Airplane

Recently, I've been posting physics and chemistry experiments that I think are pretty interesting and just about anyone can do that won't cause absolute destruction to your neighborhood or severe damage to your humble abode. Today, we take a look at a recent experiment from January done on paper airplanes. When I was much younger, paper airplanes were a passion of mine (1st - 5th grade, in fact). I became a pro at it because of learning step by step folding techniques, aerodynamics and origami.

Framing and Investigation


Question: Does the weight of paper clips effect the time it would take a paper airplane to travel six feet?

Hypothesis: We believe that the more paper clip added to the airplane will effect the time by increasing the time it takes to travel.

Background: The reasons for the predication is that the force of the fan's wind stays at a constant speed and the amount of mass increases from each paper clip The mass of a paper airplane is 13.8 grams (4.6 grams per piece of paper: 3) and the mass of a paper clip is .378 grams and we added 3 paper clips to each trial. (1.134 grams)


Procedure: Our independent variable was the force of the wind from the fan. Our dependent variable was the mass that we added each trial. We are also keeping the length that the airplane goes constant at 6 feet (1.8 meters) long each time we do a trial.

Some important steps we did were making sure the stools were exactly 6 feet apart at all times, and the height of the fishing line on the stool was 6 inches from the ground. We did 10 trails because we thought that it would be a good amount of trails in order to get the maximum result in the shortest time. The number of paper clips we used changed after every trial so we could see how much time it took to get across the line. We also made sure that we started the time a little bit after we turned the fan on so that the fan could get up to full speed. Another is letting the plane go at a time in where the wind was at it's maximum strength.

If we didn't do these procedures this way the results might not be as accurate. The results could have thrown everything off if we didn't keep the line at a constant length and constant height, turn the fan to the same wind power every trial, and make sure to let the plane go and start the time after the fan got to it's maximum wind power.

We used fishing line, stools, a portable fan, a paper airplane, paper clips, tape, scissors, measuring tape, and a stop watch.

Instructor Comments: A change that we made during our experiment was putting fishing line from the airplane to the main fishing line instead of using tape which mad the plane slow down. We made sure we did the same thing over after every trial to get the best of our results. The first trial was a dud because we used tape instead of fishing line from the plane to the main fishing line.

Collecting and Presenting

The data shown in the acceleration graph is that the more mass there is

added to the airplane means that it will take longer to travel the distance

of 1.8 meters.

In this graph the data shows that the inverse mass is equal to the

equation of 2*distance divided by the time squared equals the acceleration.

(2*d/T sq=A)

The acceleration is....

A= .o18 * 1/mass

Analyzing & Interpreting

Conclusion: Our results are almost exactly what we thought they would be. It was obvious that the time would increase the more mass we added. It was just a matter of how much it effected it. We found that our findings are accurate because of the formula we used: A= .018 / * 1/mass (for example .018/ * 1/2= .018*2/1=.360) It also relates to an equation we did in class that me or Adam couldn't find.

Evaluation of Results: Our overall results were very reasonable. After we collected all of our data and compared it to other groups our data had essentially the same idea. After the notes we took on mass and acceleration we learned that our data was very precise. One source of uncertainty is starting and stopping the watch at the same time. Another uncertainty was the exact mass of each paper clip might not have been the same. Both of these would have effected the time it took for the plane to move across the six foot piece of fishing line.

Generalizations: Our overall results are fairly reasonable. The only scientific factors that could have effected our data would be if there was a breeze in the building throwing off our plane my just a little bit. Some limitations of our experiment were knowing that the wind was hitting the plane at the same spot every time. Knowing that the fishing line was strait every time. We would do this in a air tight room to test our question more thoroughly. We would lube up the fishing line to assure that there is no friction between the paper clip and line. We could have done the amount of wind speed in another experiment. We could have tested how far the plane would go instead of a specific time.


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