AE Unit 2
Gliders Introduction
Welcome to Unit 2

The planes we fly in today are powered by propellers or jet engines: topics we’ll discuss later in the course.  Simpler flying machines can be made that have no engine at all. These gliders are able to sustain flight simply by taking advantage of airfoils.  In our second unit, we will cover concepts in glider design where you’re expected to learn the following:

  • The types of gliders and vocabulary used to discuss them
  • How to simulate glider effectiveness using modeling software
  • How to construct gliders of different sizes and materials
  • How to use control surfaces to trim your glider

Last unit we discussed the ideas of lift and drag as well as how airfoils help make flight possible.  In this unit we’ll apply those ideas in the creation of a series of gliders. In this unit, you’ll go through three major steps:

  • STEP 1: Build a very simple glider to demonstrate the principles, build control surfaces, and get a baseline for distance.
  • STEP 2: Use the AERY software to design and build your own custom glider out of balsa wood that can travel at least 75 feet in a straight line
  • STEP 3: Work with your team to design and build a large glider that can fly as far across the mat room as possible

When you’re done, you’ll have built three working gliders with increasing knowledge and complexity.

Part 1: Beginning Gliders

Forces & Surfaces

To start, you’ll get one of the basic glider kits and assemble it following the directions that are provided. This basic glider will demonstrate some principles, but won’t be nearly as good as the gliders we design and build ourselves. Once your glider is together you’ll fly it to see how far it goes and how consistent it is. Then, you’ll take some careful notes on glider principles and glider types.  Finally, you’ll brainstorm some of the ways that the kit glider could be improved to possibly fly better.


 Build the basic glider kit following the directions provided

 Add your simple glider data to the class spreadsheet!

 Take careful notes on glider principles, glider types, and brainstormed improvements

 Have Mr. Benshoof confirm your basic glider & notes


Glider Data

Glider Types

Glider Principles

Part 2: Designing Gliders

AERY Reference

In the last unit we needed to use a simulator to design our airfoils before we spent any time building the physical models.  Here, we’ll use a simulation software called AERY to design balsa wood gliders before deciding on a design and building prototypes.  You’ve investigated different parts of gliders and planes, and AERY will be able to calculate how likely the glider is to fly based on the given dimensions.  Use Aery to design two sample gliders that meet specific criteria.

Once you’re familiar with the software, design a glider of your making that fits the given criteria.  Make sure it has the highest possible AERY number – an indicator of its flyability – and then print your design. You’ll then build the prototype out of balsa wood, add control surfaces, and get it trimmed so it can fly 75 feet down our main hallway!


 Take careful notes on AERY and glider design

 Design the two practice gliders: one traditional, and one canard design

 Design your own design that fits within the given size parameters

 Build your glider from the printed AERY plans and get it trimmed out to fly 75ft down the hallway!

 Have Mr. Benshoof check-off your construction, best flight, and scoring


AERY Introduction

Building A Glider

Glider Trim

Part 3: Long Distance Challenge

Airfoil Overview

 Download the Part 3 Rubric Only

 Take the Unit 2 Quiz

In the first unit we looked at airfoils in great depth.  In fact, there is still some data in our shared AE spreadsheet about which airfoils were the most effective.  Then, over the last few weeks we’ve been looking at glider construction and how shapes, sizes, and surfaces all impact glider performance.  In this last part of the Glider Design unit you need to work with your team to create (possibly a few) long-distance gliders.

You’ll start by reviewing the glider challenge:  go more than 100 ft.  

Then your team will design a glider and its construction.  You can make multiple gliders if you want, but I expect 1 glider for the group is probably the best way to go based on the time constraint.  You will then be able to create a glider out of balsa, foam, carbon fiber, or anything you’d like. It can also be whatever size your materials allow.  The goal is to make a glider that can travel at least 100 ft down the hallway near our classroom.


 Take the Unit 2 Quiz before September 20!

 Take some detailed notes the Glider Challenge, Glider Design, Glider Construction, and Glider Trim

 Work with your team to design and build a long-distance glider

 Each person must document the team’s design process in your engineering notebook!

 Be ready to demonstrate your long distance glider on the unit due date!

AE Unit 2 Map
Looking for something?  Here you'll find a library of links to all the documents, images, and videos needed here in AE Unit 2.

Part 3 Resources

 (+) AE Unit 2 Rubric

 Part 3 Rubric

 Video: Airfoil Overview

 Video: NASA’s FoilSim III

 Video: Build an Airfoil