Science Fair Guide: Helicopter

Materials

In addition to the helicopter materials, you’ll need a tape measure.

Ask a Question

What shape and size of paper cutout causes the helicopter to fly the farthest?

Gather Information

The rubber band helicopter relies on the paper cutout to redirect the rubber band’s energy to the propeller. Without it, the energy would be wasted spinning the craft stick.

However, if the paper is too heavy, then excessive energy will be required to make the helicopter fly.

The total surface area of the paper has an effect on how much energy is diverted to the propeller. Additionally, whether the surface area is close to the center of rotation (the craft stick) or farther away also matters.

Make a Hypothesis

Using the information above, make an educated guess about which type of paper cutout will work the best. Your hypothesis should be a simple statement, such as: “A wide and narrow rectangle will help redirect the most of the rubber band’s energy to the propeller” (This is not necessarily the best hypothesis; it’s just an example).

Conduct an Experiment

  1. Create 3-7 different paper cutouts of varying shapes and sizes. Try making: a 2x2" square, a 2" circle, a 2x6" rectangle, a 2x6"-wide bowtie shape, and a 2x6"-wide diamond shape.

  2. One at a time, attach the paper cutout to the helicopter.

  3. Fly the helicopters sideways instead of straight up. This way, you can measure the effectiveness of the paper cutout by using a tape measure to measure the distance the helicopter flies.

  4. Fly each paper cutout three times. This will ensure that no single test skews your results.

  5. If you accidentally mess up one of the tests, then redo the test and record in your notes why you chose to not include the results of one test. For example, "The propeller bumped into my sleeve during launch."

Setup the Controls

Controls are measures put in place to prevent unintended things from affecting your results.

Follow these procedures to ensure your data is accurate:

  1. Test a helicopter without any paper 3 times and record the results to ensure that the paper cutout has an effect at all.

  2. Wind up the helicopters the same number of turns each test. Your goal is to test the paper cutouts, not how much energy is put into the rubber bands.

  3. Each time you test a new paper cutout, put fresh rubber bands on the helicopter. The rubber bands can stretch out and loosen over time, which would make each subsequent flight slightly less powerful.

  4. Fly the helicopters when it’s not windy.

Collect Data

Record the distance of each test for each paper cutout. When finished, add up the results for each paper cutout, then divide by 3 to get an average distance. For example, if one paper cutout flew 12', 10', and 14', then 11+12+13 divided by 3 is an average of 12'.

Your data might look something like this (this is not real data; don’t use in your conclusion):

Science Fair Guide: Helicopter

Materials

In addition to the helicopter materials, you’ll need a tape measure.

Ask a Question

What shape and size of paper cutout causes the helicopter to fly the farthest?

Gather Information

The rubber band helicopter relies on the paper cutout to redirect the rubber band’s energy to the propeller. Without it, the energy would be wasted spinning the craft stick.

However, if the paper is too heavy, then excessive energy will be required to make the helicopter fly.

The total surface area of the paper has an effect on how much energy is diverted to the propeller. Additionally, whether the surface area is close to the center of rotation (the craft stick) or farther away also matters.

Make a Hypothesis

Using the information above, make an educated guess about which type of paper cutout will work the best. Your hypothesis should be a simple statement, such as: “A wide and narrow rectangle will help redirect the most of the rubber band’s energy to the propeller” (This is not necessarily the best hypothesis; it’s just an example).

Conduct an Experiment

  1. Create 3-7 different paper cutouts of varying shapes and sizes. Try making: a 2x2" square, a 2" circle, a 2x6" rectangle, a 2x6"-wide bowtie shape, and a 2x6"-wide diamond shape.

  2. One at a time, attach the paper cutout to the helicopter.

  3. Fly the helicopters sideways instead of straight up. This way, you can measure the effectiveness of the paper cutout by using a tape measure to measure the distance the helicopter flies.

  4. Fly each paper cutout three times. This will ensure that no single test skews your results.

  5. If you accidentally mess up one of the tests, then redo the test and record in your notes why you chose to not include the results of one test. For example, "The propeller bumped into my sleeve during launch."

Setup the Controls

Controls are measures put in place to prevent unintended things from affecting your results.

Follow these procedures to ensure your data is accurate:

  1. Test a helicopter without any paper 3 times and record the results to ensure that the paper cutout has an effect at all.

  2. Wind up the helicopters the same number of turns each test. Your goal is to test the paper cutouts, not how much energy is put into the rubber bands.

  3. Each time you test a new paper cutout, put fresh rubber bands on the helicopter. The rubber bands can stretch out and loosen over time, which would make each subsequent flight slightly less powerful.

  4. Fly the helicopters when it’s not windy.

Collect Data

Record the distance of each test for each paper cutout. When finished, add up the results for each paper cutout, then divide by 3 to get an average distance. For example, if one paper cutout flew 12', 10', and 14', then 11+12+13 divided by 3 is an average of 12'.

Your data might look something like this (this is not real data; don’t use in your conclusion):

main copy.jpg

Make Observations

Describe any additional observations you made during the experiment. Be sure to include things might have affected your results such as flying errors, wind during some tests, or anything else unexpected.

Draw Conclusions

Look at your data and conclude which paper flap works the best.

Present Findings

Present your main conclusion in a visual form, such as writing the average distance flown onto each paper cutout, and creating a graph that shows the distance the each one travelled.

Summarize your hypothesis, experiment method, the controls you put in place, and your raw data.

Write your conclusion, and explain why you think the results are the way they are.

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