Monday, February 25, 2013

Paper Helicopters at Project Why

Right now we are in New Delhi in India!  Volunteering at an amazing not-for-profit education project called Project Why (

This week we spent some time with their special education class and we made paper helicopters.  The kids really loved it and wanted to launch them by standing on chairs!  Later on they coloured them in.  Each rotor a different colour so they could see more clearly which way they were spinning.  Why don't you try this experiment in your class?

You will need:

  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Paper Clips
  • Scissors
  1. Here is the basic shape you'll need to draw on your paper.  You can make it as big or as small as you like.  
  2. Cut along the solid lines and fold along the dotted lines.
  3. Ensure that each rotor is facing in a different direction.
  4. Drop the helicopter from a height and watch it spin as it drops to the ground.
Extension Ideas:
  • Try adding paper clips to the bottom - does this affect the spinning or the time it takes to drop to the ground?
  • How about adjusting the length of the rotors?  What does this change?
  • Talk about 'fair testing'.  Why is it important to change just one thing at a time?
  • Plot graphs showing the time it takes for them to fall to the ground.  You can adjust the height they are dropped from, the weight or the length of the rotors.
  • Which way do they spin?  How can we change the direction of the spin?
Things to think about:

Forces plays a major part in this experiment.  Remember all forces work in push and pulls.  Gravity is the force that pulls the helicopters to the ground.  Air resistance is another force that is affecting the rotors.  Air resistance is pushing against each rotor separately - this makes it spin.   You can find out more about air resistance from a great experiment where you need to sacrifice a ruler!  Check it out here

Sycamore trees have evolved to use forces to their advantage.  To ensure that their seeds spread far and wide their shape enables them to travel further.  Check out this video to see them in action.

This is a very fun experiment!  We are pretty confident that your kids will love it.  Check out the kids at Project Why having fun with their paper helicopters.


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  1. Hey this looks like a lot of fun. I've forwarded the link to some of our science tutors, I think it might help some of them discuss forces in physics in a slightly more interesting way!

    If you want any more info about our science tutoring in Auckland or Wellington, here's the address:


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